“Dunaújváros will no longer finance the oligarchs’ skulduggery”
We talked to former Jobbik MP and newly-elected mayor of Dunaújváros Tamás Pintér about his feelings after the election victory; holding the previous Fidesz-delegated town leadership to account; what development and changes they were planning and if they really started a “Stalin-like cleansing” in the municipality.
How did you feel on 13 October when you saw that you were going to become Dunaújváros’ next mayor?
It was fantastic but I immediately felt the weight of responsibility, too. People put their trust in me and my first thought was to show them that I don’t want to abuse their trust the way Fidesz-delegated council members did. I want to use their trust and keep earning it. We were of course very happy because very few towns across Hungary could achieve what Dunaújváros did: we got all the 10 individual council seats and I won the mayoral race as well.
Did you expect such a huge victory?
I was very hopeful and optimistic about being able to get the majority but this outstanding result surprised me, indeed. It shows that the people of Dunaújváros had wanted a radical change for a long time and now they sent a very strong message with this decision to the town leadership of the past nine years that “you’ve not been doing an adequate job.”
We, on the other hand, will all do our absolute best and work hard to change the current conditions. I am certain that we will succeed with this well-selected and excellent council that has just been voted into office by the local majority. From now on, each and every district will have a real manager rather than a viceroy.
However, Fidesz doesn’t quite seem to bear the defeat with dignity. For example, they made it clear in the city council’s inaugural meeting that they refuse to participate in the professional work in the committees and left the room as soon as they could. It doesn’t seem like a very constructive approach...
Who they really let down with this kind of attitude are the Dunaújváros citizens who voted for them. Fidesz supporters didn’t vote for political battles, either. They voted for their preferred public figures so that these individuals could represent their interests in the body. This is what the pro-government council members said no to. In fact, they also refused to perform their duties involved with their position and to work for the benefit of their own voters by helping the professional activities in the council. I find this irresponsible behaviour astounding and I’m sure that the Fidesz voters of Dunaújváros will form their own opinions about this attitude in the future.
Let me add here that I asked them in the inaugural meeting to be constructive for the sake of the city and participate in the work because the locals are completely fed up with Dunaújváros being a political battlefield. I want to close this era once and for all and I will do my best so that we could jointly work for our city’s development and accomplish these goals together. Now the ball is in their court.
There’s a certain background to this, too. Before the commemoration of 23 October, Fidesz instigated its supporters to stay away from “Tamás Pintér’s celebration”. What was the result of that? What was the atmosphere like in the national celebration?
First of all, let me state that I absolutely condemn this attitude. Everybody has the right to hold a celebration, there’s no problem with that. But the event organized by the city was not “Tamás Pintér’s celebration.” It was the celebration of the people of Dunaújváros, and a commemoration of 23 October by the country and the nation. By the way, all they proved with their absurd statement is that they considered the city-organized events of the past years as the celebrations of Gábor Cserna and Fidesz rather than that of the people living here.
I absolutely reject this kind of mentality and I guarantee you that when we participate in the national celebrations, we will always represent the city of Dunaújváros and the people who live here. We hope we will be joined by many of our compatriots. These events are never about a particular party or its supporters. They are about all Hungarians.
One of your most important pre-election pledges was to hold officials to account. What is the status of this process, have you been investigating the suspicious cases?
We have already started the full-scale review which is going to be a very serious task. What we can already see is that Fidesz left a horrible damage behind: thanks to them, we’ll have to cope with a deficit of nearly HUF 400 million in the near future. This is the fruit of their wasteful and irresponsible policies in the past. We will try to find the missing sums and get them back for our town. The sooner we can do this, the sooner Dunaújváros can get back on its feet. By the way, many people are concerned that the deficit might prevent us from paying out the wages and benefits, but there’s is no such risk. Paying out everybody’s remunerations is a top priority for us.
I will strive for closing next year with a surplus but I’m aware that it requires a very thorough and comprehensive professional work to achieve this goal. First of all, we need to conduct a due diligence of each municipal company because we’ve seen that our city was bleeding money mainly through them. We’ve taken the necessary initial steps and the upcoming council meetings will discuss the draft resolutions to hire external experts to conduct the best possible in-depth due diligence. I trust that they will eventually unveil where exactly these missing monies went.
As we reported on our portal earlier, the transition didn’t go smoothly, either. Do you know when the former Fidesz mayor is expected to return the hard drives that disappeared from the city hall?
That’s a difficult question. The city launched an investigation into the case and we filed the necessary reports to the police. The situation is further complicated by the fact that it’s not just a simple theft. If you are to believe Attila Szepesi, some classified data were stolen. It’s the police’s job to wrap up this case, there’s nothing more we can do at the moment. By the way, besides the disappearance of the hard drives, there’s another thing I experienced in recent weeks: some people have been busy trying to block us from doing our work the way we promised to the people of Dunaújváros. However, let me assure everyone that we will continue working with all our might and our professional staff to set the city on a rising course.
What kind of blocking are you talking about? Were the paper shredders just as busy in Dunaújváros as they were in Jászberény?
I can’t confirm that with complete certainty at the moment but when we finish the full due diligence, we’ll see if there are any potentially incriminating documents missing. On the other hand, I hope that some of these people didn’t really sink that low.
The local media ran quite an intensive smear campaign against you. In your experience, did it subside after your victory?
I wasn’t really distressed by these dishonest articles during the campaign so I’m not quite interested in them now, either. I responded to each and every smear with a stoic calm because the people of Dunaújváros know me and they know our councilmen, too. So they know exactly what kind of ulterior motives these articles were driven by.
However, the locals reacted to these attempts in the clearest possible way on 13 October: by casting their ballots in the election. Our citizens sent the message that if you resort to these kind of methods, you’re not needed in this city and if you order such smearing articles, you’re not going to be voted into the council.
What’s your take on the articles of a small blog that was specifically created to smear you, in which they envisioned “Stalin-like cleansing” and “Fascist terror” in the town hall? Former mayor Gábor Cserna shared these articles on his social media pages, along with some unctuous martyr act and comments on a massive firing of staff from the town hall.
I don’t follow the former mayor’s Facebook page but there’s something you need to know: “several of the people who were presented in the article as “cleansing” victims already told us they never made the statements that were put in their mouths”. The whole article is nothing but pure fiction. What they did achieve however, is that they managed to scare some of our municipality co-workers who I would certainly like to rely on in the future. I said in our latest staff meeting that I do not do any political cleansing.
We very much need all those people who did their job professionally and used their talent to contribute to the development of our home town. We believe in the creation of values, work and competence. On the other hand, we don’t need those who did basically nothing for the city other than grabbing their salary. So my message to all Dunaújváros citizens and municipality staff is this: Do not fall for these blatant lies. We have good intentions, we trust you and we trust that your expertise can help us to build a successful city.
Let’s go back to the deficit you inherited. How much does it hinder your development plans? Minus HUF 400 million is not a challenge you can shrug off.
It won’t be easy but we need to find the resources allowing us to remedy the most pressing problems. On the other hand, we are in a somewhat better situation than those who created all this deficit: We didn’t make unnecessary promises; we don’t have to squander the money on spectacular but useless projects.
As soon as we have stabilized Dunaújváros’ finances, we will implement the development projects announced in our election programme, step by step. On the flip side, I don’t want the local citizens to suffer from the former leadership’s inability to manage their money responsibly, that’s the first thing we need to guarantee for them.
Talking about irresponsible financial management, some individuals and groups with ties to Fidesz politicians were, even very recently, given loans from the city budget and they weren’t actually expected to pay these sums back. The payment deadlines have repeatedly been extended for months and years, practically indefinitely.
We are never going to expose the citizens’ money to such undue risk. We will retrieve these loans and we will make sure that local citizens get their money back. Dunaújváros will no longer finance oligarchs’ skulduggery.
Which are your most urgent measures that you will carry out first?
The most important thing is to refit the public street lighting system which is characterized by a risk of accident at the moment. We’re going to start it as early as in one of the next assembly meetings. We also want to rationalize the operation of the city-owned companies. In addition to the due diligence, we want to get rid of the political party cadres placed in leading positions whose unprofessional decisions have caused nothing but damage to the city. As soon as possible, we want to make sure that city-owned companies could again work for the local population as they should normally do, instead of functioning as a money pit to pay a small interest group.
What kind of attitude do you expect from the national government? Aren’t you afraid that they will punish the city and turn off the money tap, just as they threatened to do before the election?
I don’t expect such retaliation. I will soon initiate discussions with the cabinet on the state funds. If they reject me, Fidesz will lose any chance of working for Dunaújváros any time soon. If they turn off the money tap, it will clearly be their liability and the local citizens will not let them take such a step without a word. We need the state funds to implement development projects and create jobs in the interest of the local citizens. In a situation like this, it’s the government’s sworn duty to provide all the opportunities for us to do so. After all, the state has to provide for the livelihood and adequate living conditions of the Hungarian people and make sure that they are not driven into emigration even if they live in a city led by an opposition council.
By winning the mayoral race, you had to resign from your seat in the Parliament. Do you know when the parliamentary by-elections will be held in the Dunaújváros constituency and who will run for MP?
The law says that the by-election must be held within 120 days after my resignation but the competent election committee has not set the exact date yet. As far as the candidates are concerned, the discussions are still going on. What we know for sure is that we want a joint opposition candidate who has already earned the respect of Dunaújváros.
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