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Leonid Bershidsky

The Budapest Election Is a Victory for Cities

Urban centers the world over resist authoritarianism. They should fight for more autonomy, too.

Budapest isn’t buying. 

Budapest isn’t buying. 

Photographer: FERENC ISZA/AFP via Getty Images

With the election of Gergely Karacsony as mayor, Budapest joins a long list of big cities pitched against nationalist, populist and otherwise illiberal national governments. These cities, however, are largely powerless now to reverse countries’ policies which they abhor. By finding new ways to work together, though, these cities may find they can not only solve some of the thornier problems of urban life, but form an effective counterweight against authoritarian rule. 

Though it has been run by Hungary’s governing party, Fidesz, ever since its leader Viktor Orban came to power in 2010, Budapest, with its large creative and intellectual class, has always felt uneasy about Orban’s authoritarian ways and crude nationalism. This year, Hungary’s fragmented opposition finally united around a single candidate, political scientist Karacsony, and he comfortably beat the Fidesz incumbent, Istvan Tarlos.