Hungary: Group which led Olympic bid retreat enters politics

AP News
Posted: Mar 05, 2017 7:36 AM
Hungary: Group which led Olympic bid retreat enters politics

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Momentum Movement, a new group in Hungary whose push for a referendum made Budapest withdraw its bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, said Sunday it has become a political party.

Over 140 party members voted unanimously at a general meeting on Saturday in favor of the decision and party officials will launch the legal registration process next week.

Led by 28-year-old Andras Fekete-Gyor, the party said it rejects the left-right political divide and seeks to replace ideologies with "value-based politics." Though based in Budapest, Momentum plans to have candidates in all districts across the country in the 2018 parliamentary elections.

"There is no solidarity on the right and no positive on the left," the party said in a statement. "It is clear from our (referendum) initiative that voters need something new."

In February, the group, helped by some of the smaller opposition parties, succeeded in gathering over 266,000 signatures calling for a city-wide plebiscite on the Olympic bid. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government, along with Budapest's mayor and the Hungarian Olympic Committee, decided to withdraw the candidacy, citing a loss of national consensus on the issue.

While several anti-Orban groups have tried entering politics in the past few years with little success, analysts said some of Momentum Movement's qualities could make a difference.

"They aren't trying to pretend that they aren't politicians. They haven't disguised themselves," said Tamas Boros of the Policy Solutions research firm. "This is a strong start in terms of credibility."

Also working to their advantage was the success of the referendum signature drive, even if the referendum itself won't be held because of the decision to withdraw the Olympic bid.

"Momentum is a results-based initiative and Hungarians value that they have achieved something with the referendum instead of just holding press conferences," Boros said.

While it is unlikely to cause any large divides among supporters of Orban's Fidesz party, Momentum could trigger a generational shift in Hungarian politics.

"They can draw in new voters, which would change the proportions within the political camps," Boros added.