In yesterday’s post I dealt with the first part of Zsófia Mihancsik’s piece in Galamus about two old-new presidents: Attila Mesterházy, who was reelected chairman of the Hungarian socialist party, and László Sólyom, president of the republic between 2005 and 2010.
The occasion for her writing the article was a suggestion by Mesterházy that perhaps under the present circumstances Sólyom would be an ideal president. After all, said the MSZP party chairman, at the moment there is a moral crisis in Hungary. “One needs a president who at times can be tough, familiar with the law, knows all the details of the constitution and someone who, if necessary, can say ‘no.'”
Since the Hungarian opposition is weak, Mesterházy admitted that there is no chance of electing a president whose mandate is based on a broad consensus. They “have to realize that under the present circumstances we mustn’t insist on someone who represents exclusively left or left-liberal values.” One needs a president in whom “every Hungarian (minden magyar ember) can believe, regardless of whether that person holds left- or right-wing political views.”
Mihancsik as “a Hungarian” (magyar ember) finds the president’s political views irrelevant. She doesn’t insist on left- or left-liberal values. But what she does insist on is that he or she be a person who has acquired authority over the years by his/her professional and personal qualities. Someone who is capable of seeing the world without obvious bias toward one party or the other. Someone who is likely to go against political pressure if his convictions so dictate. “László Sólyom is not such a man.”
What is wrong with Sólyom according to Mihancsik? Her objections are manifold. He so badly wanted the job that he didn’t care in what manner his goal was achieved. Indeed, the circumstances of his election were distasteful. It was a very close race and Fidesz was afraid that one or two people might vote against the wishes of the party, which might allow the MSZP candidate to win. The vote was supposed to be secret but János Áder, then leader of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus and today one of the contenders for the job of president, checked every vote before the MPs entered the booth. In fact, he found one who voted “wrong.” The MP was immediately sent back to change his vote.
Sólyom, according to Mihancsik, misjudged the message of Gyurcsány’s speech at Balatonőszöd by declaring it the sign of a moral crisis when it was supposed to be a speech that aimed at cleansing Hungarian political life. On the other hand, he didn’t find anything wrong with Fidesz’s behavior, its vulgar style, and its continuous attacks on communities and individuals aimed at their destruction. Sólyom seemed to be oblivious of the steady growth of the far right: “while he was admiring the panorama from his palace, the Hungarian Guard was formed” below. At one point Sólyom, commenting on the growth of the neo-Nazi movement, claimed that it was simply “the problem of the holocaust survivors.” When the murders of Gypsy families occurred he didn’t feel that perhaps it would be appropriate for the president of the country to attend their funerals. He was the one who introduced the custom, later followed by many, of not shaking hands with people whose past or political views he didn’t approve of. On October 23, 2006 he didn’t dare (or didn’t want to) attend the unveiling of the 1956 memorial whereas the 93-year-old Domokos Kosáry, the doyen of the historical community, didn’t seem to be worried about his life.
The list is long, says Mihancsik, and there is no reason to continue. “László Sólyom proved throughout his five years in office that he is not fit for the post of president. And not because he didn’t profess left or left-liberal views. None of the above criticism has anything to do with political views.” It was his arrogance, his vanity, and his biases that made him unsuitable. “The fact that a spineless puppet followed him doesn’t make Sólyom’s tenure as president any better.” It also makes no difference in Mihancsik’s judgment that after Sólyom showed preferential treatment to Fidesz for years, in 2010 he was treated shamefully by Viktor Orbán.
Mesterházy wasn’t asked by Fidesz to come up with a candidate. It is clear that Viktor Orbán has no intention of discussing the person of the future president with anyone because “Fidesz holds democracy, the opposition parties and all those who are not Fidesz-believers in deep and open contempt.” Yet “we watched with amazement how MSZP allowed Fidesz, even before 2010, to have a significant influence in the public media,” for example. Mihancsik can’t decide what caused the leadership of MSZP to behave like that: a lack of vision, disorientation, or perhaps some kind of secret understanding with Fidesz, but “it is surely appalling that after eight years they are still thinking in terms of a candidate that might be favorable to Fidesz.” Orbán wants as president a partisan candidate from the highest echelon of Fidesz. If MSZP doesn’t understand this, then its leaders learned absolutely nothing from the eight years between 2002 and 2010.
Who would be a good candidate according to Zsófia Mihancsik? She suggests, just like Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció, Gábor Iványi, the Methodist minister currently under serious political pressure from the government.
Finally, my own opinion on the matter of the forthcoming election of a president. One doesn’t have to worry, it will not be László Sólyom. That’s all Viktor Orbán needs. A man who already made his opinion of the new constitution clear. Someone who is most likely outraged at the weakening of the Constitutional Court. Orbán needs Sólyom like a hole in the head.
As for Iványi, I doubt–as Mihancsik doubts too–that he would accept, but his person would also be anathema to Viktor Orbán. I think Iványi is very high on Orbán’s hate list. Perhaps close to the top. Maybe right next to Ferenc Gyurcsány.