At least this is what the majority of Hungarians think at the moment. Although according to the constitution the president is the embodiment of the unity of the nation, half of the people think that President Sólyom is in fact a divisive figure who favors Fidesz. Yet his popularity is low even among those who will most likely vote for Fidesz at the next elections. Almost all commentators are convinced that Sólyom has no chance of being renominated next summer when his five-year term expires.
His election in 2005 was not quite straight. Fidesz, fearful that some of its MPs might vote for the MSZP candidate, resorted to checking the allegedly secret ballots cast by their own people. One guy was actually sent back to vote again because "by mistake" he voted for the wrong person. At the time commentators felt that if Sólyom had been a really democratic and upright person he wouldn't have accepted the results under these circumstances. However, his ambition trumped his integrity. Moreover, he immediately announced that he didn't want to be "the beloved president of the people." This was a swipe at Árpád Göncz, Hungary's first president who served two terms after 1990. Árpi bácsi (Uncle Árpi) was indeed beloved. No president after him ever reached the level of popularity he enjoyed. His successor Ferenc Mádl wasn't beloved, but at least he didn't try to be hated. One sometimes has the feeling that Sólyom actually works on being loathed. He rarely does the right thing. When he is expected to speak he says nothing. When it would be advisable to remain quiet he talks. And he usually says the wrong thing. If it was his goal not to be beloved, he has been successful.
The latest criticism centers around Sólyom's attitude toward the serial killings of Gypsies. He never attended any of the funerals, he didn't rush to the hospital to see how the little girl was doing, he didn't urge the population to express solidarity with the Roma population. The silence is deafening. Gábor Iványi, the Methodist minister who was responsible for the baptism of Orbán's first three children, was interviewed yesterday on one of the television stations. He expressed dismay over Sólyom's behavior and said something to the effect that perhaps his advisors give him the wrong advice. From what I know about László Sólyom, he has no advisors. Or perhaps in name they are called advisors but he surely doesn't listen to any of them. They are most likely "yes-men" because Sólyom wouldn't tolerate anyone else. I'm almost certain that he is convinced that his decisions are the best possible. Gábor Iványi's reaction to Sólyom's behavior was that it will be the president who will have to explain himself before his Creator! For the time being, however, he is supposed to explain his unacceptable behavior to the Hungarian people. But by now they expect no explanation, no change of behavior. Sólyom told the prime minister to come to Sándor Palota sometime next week to update him on the progress of the investigation. He wants to be informed. That's all.
Well, in certain circles that was about the last straw. One publicist, Iván Andrassew, wrote a short piece on the op-ed page of Népszava in which he offered the "nervous, embarrassed, anguished" suggestion that if László Sólyom was incapable of talking about the attacks on Hungary's Gypsies, perhaps "the time had come for an early election" of a new president. Andrassew added that of course he is quite aware that "replacing him is almost impossible, but perhaps it would be worthwhile to discuss it in the highest possible political circles." According to Andrassew if "the exceptionally intelligent and exemplarily honorable president of the republic doesn't realize that he is unfit, then someone must make him aware of it." Andrassew recounts Sólyom's sins, which are indeed numerous, and then adds, "but there is a point beyond which one cannot excuse his behavior. He must realize that there are more important things in the world than some wild flowers growing on the southern slope of the Mecsek Mountain or the Slovak language legislation."
Well, Andrassew's reaction didn't surprise me, but I was truly amazed by what I read in Hírszerző from László Seres, a man who calls himself a neo-conservative. From the article it is clear that László Seres was among those who signed a petition on behalf of Sólyom deeming him a worthy candidate for the presidency. According to Seres he even got a form letter from the president afterwards in which he thanked him for his support. Then Seres adds, "today I'm taking my signature back. So in the future if you speak in the name of the republic, please add to it: 'the republic minus László Seres.'" Seres had expected for days that Sólyom would appear in front of the cameras and tell the country that "with the murder of this Gypsy woman the whole nation or, if you prefer, the republic was attacked." But there was no Sólyom, and therefore Seres's trust in him has been shaken. He is not fit to occupy this position. It is perhaps not too late for Sólyom to do something, "but if you are incapable of this, I'm asking you to resign."
These are strong words. The other side says nothing, of course. On the whole Fidesz doesn't want to commit itself to the defense of Gypsies. Fidesz politicians know only too well the prejudices of the overwhelming majority of the population. And then there are the supporters of Jobbik and the Hungarian Guard. Surely the best thing for Fidesz is to remain quiet. Meanwhile Sólyom is vacationing somewhere and although he received an invitation to a gathering on the day of remembrance of the Roma Holocaust (July 27), he refused to attend. It looks as if he is avoiding the whole topic. Difficult to tell why. Political reasons? Unaware of the importance of the question? Honestly, I have no idea.