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It's not an edifying competition: the towns in the running are looking for development funds, and age-old tensions between the capital and the provinces are coming to the fore. Seven cities are competing for the title of 2010 European Capital of Culture. The government is set to take a decision next week.

Winning the cultural capital title for a year is not the enormous festival that many imagine. But nobody should blame themselves if they have been misled. Several of the 11 original bidders misunderstood what was expected of them if they wanted to hold the title in 2010 alongside Görlitz or Essen in Germany. Veszprém, Székesfehérvár, Kecskemét and Kaposvár all fell out of the race in March, when it emerged that they had drawn up plans for a year-long festival, and not the culture-orientated city development plan which was required.

"A Capital of Culture is not simply a place where art comes to town for a year. It's...an exhibition of European values," says Wolfgang Lorenz, who was in charge of Graz's cultural capital programme in 2003. The aim is to promote developments and programmes that will affect the region in the long-term. That's why Brussels is so keen that there be consensus and shared goals even at the planning stage.

Although shared goals are hardly the main driving force behind the plans of the seven cities (Budapest, Debrecen, Eger, Győr, Miskolc, Pécs, Sopron) that are still in the race. It's no coincidence that half of respondents to a Medián survey in September had never heard of the Capital of Culture title. Pécs has been the most energetic in campaigning for the honour.

There, civil society organisations were working on the their application well before the opening of the competition in 2002. In Győr, preparations only started in autumn 2004, and the token nature of their campaign is shown by the endorsements they've managed to gather for their website. The regional director of the tax office and the director of the local bus company are strongly in favour. The city's rivals focused on local academics and artists.

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Opinion

"Businessmen should stick to business," said Viktor Orban at a village party meeting, and though he didn't say it explicitly, the second sentence was implicit: "...and not govern." This view of leadership is thought-provoking. Because it disqualifies people in certain professions or jobs from taking part in public affairs. Which begs the question: who is suited to run the country?

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"Third way" platform

There will be a new party to vote for come 2006. The Hungarian Truth and Life Party (MIÉP), the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) will campaign on a joint platform, MIÉP-Jobbik Third Way. István Csurka's new electoral alliance could take votes away from Fidesz.

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New beginning

From mid-November, Mihály Bihari, a former nominee for President of the Republic, will head the Constiutional Court. There are hopes that the appointment of Bihari, who once taught numerous opposition politicians, will bring an end to the stalemate over future court nominations.

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Unconstitutional?

It will be left to the next parliament to modify the agents' law it voted for in May, after the Constitutional Court ruled parts of it unconstitutional. Despite this, there will be plenty of talk of former agents in the coming election campaign.

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HUF 336billion?

In the worse case, the government will have to repay HUF336bn to National Motorway Rt., but it is trying to withhold some HUF100bn of this.

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