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Convicts, defendants and suspects to run for mayor across Hungary

Throughout Hungary, dozens of current and former mayors undeterred by the court proceedings, investigations or significant public scandals revolving around them are running once again for the office. Many have a chance to be re-elected on June 9, despite court rulings hanging above their heads like a sword of Damocles: should they be eventually sentenced to prison with final effect, their mayoral positions will be lost as per Hungarian law.

Zugló – Csaba Horváth

Zugló – Budapest’s District 14 – is the largest of the municipalities on our list, currently led by Csaba Horváth. The MSZP politician has been suspected of influence peddling for more than two years in connection with the paid parking system of District 14. According to the testimony of Zsolt Fuzik, former technical director of Budapest’s public transport corporation, Horváth had accepted a bribe from him. The investigation, still underway, has been extended until the end of August, so even if the current mayor is found guilty, it could take years for the court to make a final ruling. However, Horváth maintains his innocence and is re-running for mayor. His chances are diminished by the fact that liberal-centrist Momentum has fielded their own candidate, András Rózsa, against him, creating the possibility that Fidesz could win as the laughing third.

MOHOS MÁRTON / 24.HU Csaba Horváth

Méhkerék – Margit Tát

In February 2022, the court ruled Margit Tát to be guilty of budgetary fraud and the cumulative offense of using forged private documents – yet she is running in the Méhkerék mayoral election. Her chances are not bad, as despite having been stripped of her mayoral position due to the court’s decision, she pocketed a landslide victory in the subsequent interim mayoral election. The Fidesz mayor was given a suspended prison sentence, making her ineligible of the office according to the law, but as she did not have to go to prison and was not barred from public affairs, she could participate in the new elections right away. She must now face an independent challenger.

Pusztaottlaka – György Simonka

The former Fidesz MP is accused of serious corruption crimes by the prosecutor’s office. György Simonka announced in April his intention to return to the helm of Pusztaottlaka, a village in Békés County, after a ten-year hiatus. Initially, it seemed that Simonka would have an easy path to victory, as the settlement’s incumbent mayor had announced not running again, and for a while, it appeared that Simonka would remain the only choice for the village’s residents. However, the ice broke during Péter Magyar’s Békés County visit, when a local resident declared his candidacy against Simonka due to his outrage concerning the allegedly corrupt politician’s return attempt. Since then, a third candidate has also emerged. Simonka’s criminal case is currently being heard in the Budapest Metropolitan Court, where the prosecution has requested eight and a half years of imprisonment and the confiscation of all assets for budgetary fraud and other crimes committed as part of a criminal organisation.

ADRIÁN ZOLTÁN / 24.HU György Simonka

Badacsonytomaj – László N. Krisztin

Badacsonytomaj mayor László N. Krisztin is suspected of budgetary fraud and document forgery, yet he is running for office once again. The politician ran into trouble over the use of a 2.4 billion forint European Union grant, the case of which was investigated by both the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the Hungarian tax authorities. All representatives serving under the previous two terms were questioned; and dozens of town hall employees were summoned and detained, as they had been paid bonuses of around one million forints each at the grant’s expense. If this wasn’t enough, the June mayoral election in Badacsonytomaj promises even more excitement as two former deputy mayors are also running: Péter Orbán, who had filed the initial report with OLAF, and Béla Hartai, whose land deal had been investigated by the police – although the investigation was eventually closed. This is not Krisztin N. László’s first scandal; in 2014, he was re-elected by a large margin despite having built a “training center” resembling a family home on his children’s land with 35 million forints of EU funding awarded to a company linked to his family, Bétakris Ltd.

Bácsszőlős – Róbert Szarvas

A month ago, an investigation was ordered against Bácsszőlős mayor Róbert Szarvas, who moved into the village’s medical residence renovated with the help of EU-funds.

I have to live somewhere, for fuck’s sake

– Szarvas explained to independent MP Ákos Hadházy, who exposed the politician. Szarvas had previously won several elections in Fidesz’s colours but he is now running independently.

Mende – József Kaszanyi

József Kaszanyi, the mayor of Mende, made headlines in the midst of the Covid pandemic by taking his family to Zanzibar despite Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s request for everyone to postpone planned vacations to exotic locations due to the risk of “bringing home dangerous virus mutations and endangering others”. It was revealed shortly afterwards that Kaszanyi and his family members had received grants from an EU funding organisation of which Kaszanyi is the president. The Kaszanyi family received money for a barbecue grill, a rural guesthouse, and a slaughterhouse. The tax authority investigated these matters in 2022, but there is no information that any irregularities were found. József Kaszanyi is running unopposed in the current election.

Fülöpszállás – József Balogh

József Balogh resigned from his mayoral position in 2016 after being sentenced to a ten-month suspended prison term for repeatedly punching his partner in the face. Balogh denied the accusations after the incident, suggesting instead that his partner may have “tripped over their blind dog“, resulting in her fractured skull. Nonetheless, he had to leave Fidesz’s parliamentary faction in the wake of the incident. His daughter succeeded him as Fülöpszállás’ mayor, but since she is not running in the upcoming election, József Balogh may potentially return to public life. In the previous election, Balogh ran for a representative’s seat, making it into the council with the second-highest number of votes.

Kiskunfélegyháza – József Csányi

The police was just about to close the investigation into suspected mismanagement related to Kiskunfélegyháza’s industrial park, but the prosecutor’s office annulled this decision at the beginning of the year and ordered the investigation to continue. József Csányi, who is serving as the town’s mayor in the colours of Fidesz-affiliated National Forum, was reported by opposition representative Kálmán Kis-Szeniczey for first selling a plot of land for 20.7 million forints and then buying it back for 54 million forints a few years later after waiving the right to the penalty for the buyer’s failure to develop the land. Csányi also caused a minor scandal during the Christmas season: in an intoxicated state, the mayor initiated several altercations – some of them physical – while threatening suicide. Five years ago, Csányi won by a large margin, but now he might face a more difficult election: his challenger is the one who had reported him to the police, Kálmán Kis-Szeniczey.

ROSTA TIBOR / MTI Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Resources, gives a speech at the inauguration of the healthcare center built with more than one billion forints in Kiskunfélegyháza on June 14, 2019. József Csányi, the mayor of Kiskunfélegyháza stands on his right.

Nyírmártonfalva – Mihály Filemon

Mihály Filemon is also running again, having gained notoriety last year for a treetop walkway with no canopy in sight. While the project was being realised with a 60 million-forint EU investment, the surrounding forest was completely clear-cut, leaving the structure standing in a barren area.

Let’s continue, Nyírmártonfalva! Development must not stop! Words fade, actions remain!

– he announced his candidacy in a subsequently deleted post. Counting Filemon, six people are running for mayor in the village.

Kozármisleny – Károly Bíró

Kozármisleny mayor Károly Bíró is being accused of mismanagement by the prosecutor’s office, yet he is once again competing for the trust of the citizens of Kozármisleny. The case is currently in the court phase; a preliminary hearing was supposed to be held in March, where Bíró did not appear, citing medical treatment. According to the indictment, the mayor took out a life insurance policy with a five-year term in 2014 and, upon its expiration, withdrew 1.6 million forints, which he documented as a bonus.

Törökbálint – Sándor Elek

The Érd District Court will begin hearing the criminal case of Sándor Elek, the Fidesz mayor of Törökbálint, before the municipal elections. He is charged with mismanagement for selling municipal properties below their appraised value on his own authority, causing significant financial loss to the municipality. The prosecution has requested a suspended prison sentence for the mayor, and in case the court would agree with this decision, Sándor Elek would have to resign if he is elected in June. “I continue to believe that I have not committed any crime, nor have I even made a mistake. I trust that after learning the facts, the court will make a prompt decision and acquit me in the absence of any crimes” – Elek wrote after the preliminary hearing.

Pétervására – István Eged

Fidesz mayor István Eged had built a “rural guesthouse” with a 50 million forint EU grant, which he then was conspicuously using for his own purposes. After being exposed by Ákos Hadházy, Eged threatened the independent MP on Facebook. The Integrity Authority found several irregularities regarding the rural accommodation project, but despite calling for an irregularity procedure at the managing authority, the Ministry of Agriculture stated that it could not initiate such an investigation. Eged is running in the election again, and he has told TV channel RTL that his chances of being re-elected are in fact splendid.

Béb – Imre Brunner

Imre Brunner is somewhat of an odd one out on this list. Although an investigation was launched into a controversial foreclosure case in which he allegedly acquired a house in the village for three million forints, displacing a family with four children, he was ultimately not charged with anything. In fact, according to the investigative records, he was not even questioned, although all but one of the village’s representatives were summoned by the police. Five years ago, Brunner won easily as the sole candidate, but this time he has a challenger to face in the Veszprém County village’s municipal elections.

VARGA JENNIFER / 24.HU The house that Mayor Imre Brunner bought at an auction.

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