Budapest consists of twenty-three districts. The Hungarian capital city has a peculiar dual self-government system. This means that in addition to the Budapest Municipality, the local government of Budapest, each of the twenty-three districts have their own government, the so-called district governments, with elected mayors and a body of representatives.
The General Assembly of Budapest and the district bodies of representatives are equal in terms of their basic rights, with no hierarchic relationship between them. A division of labour has emerged among the autonomous and equal local governments which is in line with duties and responsibilities. Local government tasks are generally implemented by the district governments while tasks stemming from its nationwide scope and related to multiple districts or the city as a whole are undertaken by the Budapest Municipality.
The General Assembly
The Municipality of Budapest is a legal entity, represented by the Mayor or a person duly authorised by the Mayor as his representative.
The municipal duties and powers are vested in the local governing body, in the General Assembly. Municipal duties are handled by the General Assembly and its organs (the committees of the General Assembly, the Mayor and the Mayor’s Office). The General Assembly may delegate some of its powers to the Mayor or to its committees, in order to guarantee continuous fulfilment of the relevant tasks. The Act on Local Governments designates the powers which cannot be delegated and which, therefore, shall be exclusively exercised by the General Assembly.
The General Assembly has 33 members, the 34th member, the Mayor, is elected directly. Members are the 23 mayors of the districts and 9 representative from so called compensation party lists. The General Assembly holds ordinary meetings at least six times a year, but extraordinary meetings may also be convened in cases specified in the Rules of Procedure. The General Assembly operates on the basis of an annual work schedule and as a general rule, its meetings are open to the public.
Sessions of the General Assembly are convened and chaired by the Mayor. If the Mayor is incapacitated, his deputy acts as chairman. Decisions of the General Assembly (which may be municipal decrees and assembly resolutions) are passed by open ballot. Secret ballot may be used in cases specified by law. For the purposes of establishing whether the General Assembly has a quorum, as well as in relation with its decision-making and operation, the Mayor shall be regarded as a local government representative.
The General Assembly establishes permanent and ad hoc committees to draft proposals prior to decisions and to arrange and control their implementation. The chairman, the vice chairman and the members of the committee, as well as the chairman of any possible subcommittee, shall be elected by the General Assembly. Permanent committees are responsible for providing continuous assistance for the operation of the General Assembly. Ad hoc committees are set up by the General Assembly for the purposes of managing specific tasks.
The Mayor and The Chief Clerk
The Mayor of Budapest undertakes his responsibilities as a full-time employee. His main duties relate to the activities of the General Assembly and the committees. He also manages the Mayor’s Office, and decides on issues of public administration in his capacity as a representative of the State. In order to provide a substitute for the Mayor, and to have someone to assist him, the General Assembly elects deputies to the Mayor, upon the Mayor's recommendation, (currently there are five deputy mayors) who perform their duties under the Mayor’s guidance.
The Chief Clerk of Budapest is appointed by the General Assembly, for an indefinite period of time, upon the results of a public application procedure. The Chief Clerk is responsible for the operational tasks of the municipality; manages the Mayor’s Office, handles tasks of public administration as a representative of the State, has administrative responsibilities, etc. the Chief Clerk is the main "watchdog" to ensure the legitimate operations of the Municipality. The Chief Clerk shall indicate to the General Assembly, the relevant committees and the Mayor, any violation of the law in their decision-making. The General Assembly nominates deputies to him, for an indefinite period of time, to handle tasks specified by the Chief Clerk.
In order to supervise specific functions of the municipality, the General Assembly elects counsellors from among its members. Counsellors may be elected for a specific period of time, or for specific tasks.
The General Assembly has one public hearing at least once a year where citizens and representatives of local organisations may pose questions of public interest or make recommendations. A citizens’ forum may be convened to handle specific issues of public interest; to make preparations for major decisions affecting the capital; to provide direct information to the citizens and social organisations; and to solicit their opinion.
It is through the Mayor’s Office that tasks concerning the operation of the City as well as preparation for and implementation of resolutions relating to matters of public administration are carried out by the General Assembly. The Mayor’s Office is a budgetary entity arranging its own finances with full authority, currently comprising 18 departments.
The Municipality of Budapest provides public services, within its scope of responsibilities, through municipal institutions, business entities and public utility companies founded by itself or, to a lesser extent, through purchasing services. The City maintains and supervises hospitals and polyclinics, art and public culture institutions, children’s and youth homes, secondary schools and dormitories, social homes providing specialised care, markets and market halls. Certain theatres maintained by the City operate as non-profit companies. Following their transformation, public utility works of the Municipality of Budapest now operate as companies.
The local government system of Budapest is unique: a two-tier arrangement – unparalleled in Hungary – operates in the capital comprising the municipality of the City and those of the Districts. The Act on Local Governments specifies different rules with respect to its special two-tier system of local government. Both the City and the Districts are local governments, not subordinated to one another, each having specific duties and powers, specified by law. Both are eligible to exercise the basic rights of local governments.