Zsófia Mihancsik: Two old-new presidents, Mesterházy and Sólyom (2)

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.”

Left and right

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.

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THe political crises that arose after Oszod, the low rating of MSZP is very much the fault of Mesterhazy. Whatever his reasons were/are not liking Gyurcsany he knew darn well what Gyurcsany was referring to at the time, and he did not move his little finger against the PR attack of Fidesz and Jobbik. He is as dangerously power hungry as Orban, and he would do as much damage for the country if MSZP would make it with him, as Orban does. Oszod was an opportunity for Mesterhazy, and he rode the wave with Fidesz. He miscalculated the outcome although. He thought that it will be only Gyurcsany who goes down, but the whole MSZP did. Mesterhazy is still too weak to go against Orban, and any suggestion coming from him I would question, simply because of Mesterhazy’s character flaws.


It’s past time that “our man” Gyurcsany start “squealing like a pig” and blow everyone’s cover. But it ain’t going to happen ‘cos he’d go down with them all.


Gábor Iványi, the Methodist minister – is he the one who features in that NPR-report on the homeless in Budapest and who runs that shelter for them ?
He seems to be a good honest man …

LwiH: ” “our man” Gyurcsany start “squealing like a pig” and blow everyone’s cover” How classy. You must be a big fan of Orban and more so of Deutsch with the unmistakable flair to convey your point of view. As far as Gyurcsany goes.. it does not seem that Orban suffered any problem for telling foreign diplomats that “do not listen to what I say [to get elected]” . Would you mind commenting on that? Gyurcsany was right, especially on what he said applies to Oeban. Orban made a carrier out of supporting liars (Schmitt), falsifying documents (translations provided to the EU on Media Law, Constitution), taking away the right of Hungarian citizens (homosexuals, couples living together without marriage), prosecuting the poor (homeless laws), getting the church involved in all Hungarian’s business, stole people’s money (retirement savings), and the list just begins there. Of course this is what you guys deserve versus Gyurcsany who said it honestly about all Hungarian politicians as it is. The problem is that you “cannot handle the truth!”. Oh, and do you remember who was the guy who used the “”squealing like a pig” in the movies? Well, he was not the good guy, let… Read more »

Yep, Mesterházy is a totally spine-free zone.


Wolfi wrote:
“Gábor Iványi, the Methodist minister – is he the one who features in that NPR-report on the homeless in Budapest and who runs that shelter for them ?
He seems to be a good honest man …”
Indeed, he is one of the few Christian leaders in Hungary who leads by doing good works in a Christian spirit. And for this, he has earned the scorn of the odious Achbishop of Veszprém who wrote that: “The Methodist pastor Gábor Iványi is well known among us, but more as a loud mouthed politician than as a preacher.”
He would be a superb choice for President in a country in which poverty is a major and growing issue, but sadly, it isn’t going to happen. This government is Cleric-friendly but is simply not Christian enough to tolerate someone who speaks truth to power.

@Some1 Yes, the terms were deliberately used. But, if you’d read any of my postings you’d realize I’m fan of OV either. His election has been a disaster for this country. That said, election results like this were inevitable. Why? Considering that the whole lot continue to abuse the public trust and feel no responsibility to their electorate you can see why current ruling parties would be rejected whole sale. As the electorate reject the current corrupt group in favor of the next corrupt group we’ll continue to see destabilizing shock waves ripple through the the political scene. I’m picking on Gyurcsany because if he’s the saviour he claims to be why should he not be the first to step up to the plate. Of course he won’t because he can’t, he’ll be eaten alive. This is one of the reasons I’ve suggested it time for some sort of amnesty, some way of clearing the decks. Without a clean slate I really don’t see a way out of the past 20 or so years. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve an acquaintance that’s been driven out of the country because he made an honest attempt to fulfil a (wink wink nudge… Read more »

@ LwiiH:I hear you. I apologize for my quick reaction. I am just very saddened by the constant bickering of Gyurcsany from every angle, even though there is clearly no better alternative. I would vote ten times for GYurcsany before I would vote for Orban and his gang. I truly believe that Gyurcsany was naive and maybe lacked the experience to run the country, but his intentions were honorable. I do not think he personally benefitted financially by being a PM. I am sure in his government there were many culprits although. I am not sure if anyone could strike a government at this point and guarantee that each one of the members are clean. Orban on the other hand promised just that, and he cannot deal with the consequences of most of his friends being cheaters, liars and so forth. For me Gyurcsany is still one of the best choice in Hungary.