The new president of Hungary: János Áder

Someone could nitpick and say that János Áder has not been confirmed as president yet. He was only nominated by Viktor Orbán and endorsed by the Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary caucuses. Let’s just wait for the final vote. But we know, don’t we, that there won’t be any problem with his election on May 2, the date apparently picked for the glorious event. Áder will be elected after the first round of voting because he will receive two-thirds of the votes. That is certain. It is also certain that the democratic opposition parties will not assist in this “circus,” as they call the presidential election, Orbán style. Moreover, if I heard it right this morning, not even Jobbik will be present. Thus, Áder’s election to the post will be a cozy little affair.

When it comes to an assessment of Áder as a politician and as a man even people on the liberal side, be they politicians or analysts, are split. There are those who say that “Áder is certainly an improvement over Schmitt.” Gábor Fodor (SZDSZ), who started his political career as one of the founders of Fidesz, has a good opinion of him as an intelligent and likable man. Perhaps because of Fodor’s close association with Áder going back almost thirty years he seems to be able to overlook some of the serious objections one can raise against Áder’s appointment.

Although he is a few years older than Viktor Orbán, through László Kövér, a close friend of his, Áder hung out with the bunch of students who resided in the same self-governing dormitory (kollégium) and who decided to establish a rival political formation to KISZ, the official student association. These people, great friends living and studying together as law students, run Hungary today. They occupy all the important positions.  Just to illustrate my point, on August 20 when celebrations for the national holiday begin in front of the parliament, three old buddies will be standing: János Áder, the president; Viktor Orbán, the prime minister; and László Kövér, the speaker of the house.

Áder held important positions within the party. He was on the Fidesz negotiating team at the Round Table discussions where the future of democratic Hungary was hammered out between the democratic opposition and the ruling communist party. He was in charge of Fidesz’s successful 1990 election campaign and received a seat in the Fidesz parliamentary delegation in 1990. He spent nineteen years in parliament, rising to the position of speaker of the house between 1998 and 2002 when his party was in power. Once Viktor Orbán’s party lost the elections in 2002 Áder became head of Fidesz’s parliamentary delegation, a position he held for four years.

But then something happened. Viktor Orbán felt that Áder couldn’t be completely trusted. There were rumors that Áder, along with many others in the party, thought that perhaps Viktor Orbán should not continue in his position as the unquestioned leader of Fidesz. After all, he managed to lose two elections in a row. Whether Áder was really contemplating removing Orbán or not is beside the point. Orbán thought he was. In Magyar Nemzet an article appeared in which Mária Schmidt of Terror House fame and János Áder were accused of conspiring against Viktor Orbán. Analysts claimed that such an article couldn’t have been published in Magyar Nemzet without Orbán’s permission.

From there on Áder was more or less dropped. He remained a member of parliament but he no longer was the leader of the Fidesz delegation. The job was taken over by Orbán’s new favorite, Tibor Navracsics, who earlier was involved with Fidesz politics only as an adviser to the chairman of the party. Then came the European parliamentary elections of 2009 and no one was terribly surprised that among Fidesz’s nominees there was János Áder.

Áder’s knowledge of foreign languages was meager. He was apparently learning English, but we all know that learning a language fairly late in life is an arduous and slow task. At the time Áder’s English was practically non-existent. I heard from people who know him that he has since learned English quite well. Although one could hear at times that Áder wasn’t too happy in Brussels, he took his duties seriously. I checked and found that he was present at something like 95% of all full sessions of the European Parliament. Moreover, he moved his whole family to Brussels, where his children are being schooled.

 

If you don’t take the job, Caligula, I swear I will give it to János Áder! (Gábor Pápai, Népszava)

So, what kinds of objections can we raise against János Áder? The most common criticism is that he is so closely associated with Fidesz that he will not be accepted by those who are in the other camp. And, the argument continues, according to the constitution the president is supposed to embody the “unity of the nation.” I don’t think that this is a weighty consideration. After all, not since Árpád Göncz has a president been endorsed by both camps. The situation became really bad during the term of László Sólyom and went further downhill during Pál Schmitt’s disastrous year and a half. So, with Áder’s election the situation cannot possibly change for the worse. The prestige of the office is in shambles.

More weighty are those criticisms that are brought up in connection with János Áder’s dubious contributions to Hungarian politics. For instance, his role in the election of László Sólyom when he, as the head of the Fidesz caucus, checked each ballot before the Fidesz members entered the booth, ostensibly to vote in secret for the new president. After all, Fidesz wanted to be sure that all members of the caucus would vote for Sólyom and defeat MSZP’s candidate, Katalin Szili.

An even more serious objection to Áder is his latest contribution to Viktor Orbán’s attack on Hungarian democracy. If it is true that Áder was exiled to Brussels because of his alleged sins against Orbán, he must have been forgiven. Áder was asked to work out the new system for the Hungarian judiciary. It is his handiwork that raised so many objections by the foreign legal scholars of the Venice Commission. But that’s not all. He was also the architect of the new electoral law. International scrutiny has not yet gotten as far as taking a good look at the electoral law, but everything I read indicates that there will be very serious objections to this piece of legislation as well.

Thus, Áder seems to be responsible for a judicial system that allows government interference in an allegedly independent judiciary and the electoral law that can prevent the peaceful transfer of power from one government to the next. Very serious objections, I’m afraid.

And now Áder seems to be entrusted with another task. On the off chance that Viktor Orbán and his government are not reelected, he as president can prevent the proper functioning of the new political formation. Although on paper the president’s competence seems to be fairly restricted, he will be able to dissolve parliament with a little help from the Budgetary Council. It will work in the following way. According to the new constitution, if the Budgetary Council considers the budget passed by parliament inadequate, they can refuse to give it their blessing. If parliament and the Budgetary Council are unable to agree on a budget by March 15, the president can dissolve parliament and declare new elections. The Budgetary Council consists of three men. At the moment there are two Fidesz appointees and the chairman of the Hungarian National Bank, András Simor. However, next year Viktor Orbán will pick the new chairman of the central bank. Thus, the Council will be made up entirely of Fidesz appointees.

Áder will be occupying his post until at least 2017. The prospects are rather grim, I’m afraid.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Kingfisher
Guest
In my opinion, Orbán lost Fidesz THREE elections! Between 1990 and 1994, they became very popular (I think more due to Fodor than Orbán) and at one point, were polling at 40% and looked like they’d be the next Hungarian government. Then their skullduggery with the new headquarters building was revealed and they came perilously close to dropping out of parliament. There have been some interesting developments with the Budgetary Council today. Some new legislation gives them virtually no time to assess last minute budget changes, meaning that the government will be able to play around with the budget at will. Árpád Kovács is not happy. Incidentally, although Kovács is a Fidesz appointee, he is a man who seems to have a mind of his own (he was the head of the state audit office for many years) and was always highly regarded by people I knew. So I don’t think he should be thought of as a Fidesz stooge. The news of the week for me, is that Simicska has been revealed as the owner of Közgép. He walked off with the 2.9 billion forints of post-tax profits for the last financial year (which he is legally entitled to… Read more »
Kingfisher
Guest

Breaking news!
HVG is reporting that Matolcsy has submitted amendments to the law on the National Bank that has upset the EU. It would seem that these amendments do not go as far as the EU is demanding. It seems all he has done is adopt Hungary’s own proposals as sent to the EU last week which the EU objected to.
They are playing a very dangerous game. I’m sure once the markets believe Orbán is not going to come to an agreement with the IMF and EU, the roof will fall in.

Sandor
Guest

This friendly company of thieves is more and more resembling a maffia family. The only thing still remaining to do is marrying each other daughters, to cement the alliance for good. Not that they would need that, but what else is left for them to be what they are, except this?

GDF
Guest

Sandor:”This friendly company of thieves is more and more resembling a maffia family. The only thing still remaining to do is marrying each other daughters, to cement the alliance for good. Not that they would need that, but what else is left for them to be what they are, except this?”
A few spectacular murders via drive-by machine gun fire, some of them sunk into Lake Balaton dressed in concrete shoes etc.

petofi1
Guest

Here’s a first for Orban’s Hungary: the only country to have achieved a democratic government–faulty as it was–and deconstruct in the record time of 2 years.
I can’t think of another country with a similar backtrack in their history. Plaudits to Victor.

Mouse
Guest

A representative on my employer and some others from European business in Hungary had an audience with Viktor Orban recently. The words were all very nice, business and europe friendly, everything will be ok, some misunderstandings that is all.
So it seems the old game of one face for the foreigners and another for internal consumption is still being played despite the clear evidence that it no longer works. In a world of connected media and accessible translation tools, where getting the gist of an article in Hungarian is not beyond the capabilities of anyone interested it just can’t work.
My advice as with politcians in any country, don’t pay any attention to what he says, watch what he does. Join the dots and reach your own conclusion.

Eva Balogh
Guest

Sándor: “The only thing still remaining to do is marrying each other daughters, to cement the alliance for good.”
Well, to some extent such marriages happened with the original generation. Both Orbán and Szájer married within the “kollégium.”

Kingfisher
Guest

Although Szájer and his wife have not lived together for many years.

Member

Kingfisher: “Although Szájer and his wife have not lived together for many years.” Thank goodness! I must say. If there would be no broken marriages in the Fidesz probably the New Constitution would make breaking up marriages illegal, in order to comply with the church.

Kingfisher
Guest

It’s hardly a secret that Szájer’s interests lie elsewhere (partly why he was exiled to Europe) and he was the victim of a really nasty smear campaign from within Fidesz in late 2001.
Orbán’s marriage is “open” and has been since the 90s. I wouldn’t bring this up if Orbán wasn’t so keen to promote himself as a God fearing family man. He isn’t!

Member
I was just thinking about if there was any incident in history of modern politics (after 1945) that in any country a gittegylet (puttysociety) can come and stay on power without being disturbed to much? Not even that but what does it say about the society as a whole where most of the people do not realize the bluff, and they do not call on it? For those of you who obviously have no idea what gittegylet means… Ferenc Molnar or (Franz Molnar) the Internationally recognized playwriter, novelist’s famous youth novel, the Pal Street Boys is about a group of boys who’s solidarity to each other in a small club they created for themselves are exemplary. Having no money or prospects or ample of opportunity to develop a world vision, the “richness” what makes these small group unite is a piece off putty that they alternately chew on, so it would not harden, and it grows as they scrape out more from newly fixed windows. The piece of putty is being passed on and on. The importance of putty, that is so insignificant for others is tremendous. What defines the loyalty to Orban is the being member of the puttysociety… Read more »
Eva Balogh
Guest

Kingfisher: “Although Szájer and his wife have not lived together for many years.”
Yes, there are all sorts of rumors about Szájer’s sexual orientation. I have no idea. It can happen. Just about a year ago I learned that the wife of a couple I have known for over twenty years broke up. She just married a woman.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Orbán’s marriage is “open” and has been since the 90s.”
Blatant lie.

Member

Johnny Boy: “”Orbán’s marriage is “open” and has been since the 90s.” Blatant lie.”
O am not saying it is true, bit how do you know it isn’t Johnny Boy. Instead just living the comment as it is, you come to defend Orban and his wife. No need to defend if it is true, as it would be their choice, but how do you know? Are you their butler?

Lutra lutra
Guest

Not sure if it’s an “open” marriage, if Vik simply thinks it is or if he’s had at least one long-term mistress in these years. I know of a UK MP who sued a magazine and won because it alleged they were having an affair with their assistant. It turned out that the MP had two assistants and it had named the wrong one.
Mind you, the story about Viktór being over-fond of Stella Artois (probably lost on non-Brits) can’t possibly be true.

kingfisher
Guest

Johnny Boy, I accept that anonymous posters on internet forums often lie and you are perfectly entitled to regard me as a liar. But if you want to do some investigations of your own, try starting at Királyok Utca in the 3rd district.
Apologies for lowering the tone with this stuff. I can assure you that MSZP are no less promiscuous (and indeed, a good less discreet) but they don’t put themselves forward as “family men” in the way Orbán does.

Paul
Guest

“Orbán’s marriage is “open” and has been since the 90s.”
This is one hell of a statement, Kingfisher – can you support it in any way?

Member

Vicky was banging actress Eszter Nagy-Kálózy according to rumors.
It’s not a lie Johnny: It’s a rumor.

Wondercat
Guest

@Lutra lutra: Might you be alluding to the nickname Stella Artois enjoys, the nickname “Wifebeater”? You otter be ashamed…

Kingfisher
Guest
@Paul, Hungary is a very indiscreet country. If you speak Hungarian, live in Budapest, and know people in the media and business, you would be amazed what you find out. You are helped by the fact that there is no attempt at discretion on behalf of the “sinners.” I told the story of how Simicska used to sit in a pub, handing out fake invoices for cash. Everyone knew who he was. It really is that brazen. Remember when Princz Gábor was supposedly wanted by the police for the Posta Bank “scandal”, allegedly hiding in Vienna? I saw him at the Angelika Kávézó, having coffee, and left in a car with diplomatic number plates! I’ve been critical here of Éva for being far too kind to MSZP and Gyurcsány (and Bajnai). That is because they are also astonishingly indiscreet. But returning to your question, can I back up what I said about Orbán? Well, in the late 90s, he openly spent his Sundays with another woman. All the family knew and accepted it. It was totally in the open. I even saw him at a concert, holding hands with a lady who most definitely was not his wife. I’m sorry… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Thanks Kingfisher. I’m pretty certain that if I ask my wife about this she’ll claim that it cannot be true and is made up by the left/liberals/Jews/foreigners/communists (delete as applicable)!
She’s not in the mood for such a question tonight (and nor me for the inevitable ‘exchange of words’ that will follow), but I shall venture forth on this at some point over the weekend.
I am puzzled by this openness though – how does Mrs O put up with it? And why isn’t it used by the opposition (it would be a gift from the gods here in the UK)? And, perhaps most puzzling of all – how come the KDNP don’t get upset about it?

Kirsten
Guest

Paul, why can OV say one thing when speaking to foreigners and another when speaking to Hungarians? There must either be a fair amount of tolerance towards divergence of words and deeds (not impossible given the belief that “we” are “different”, and anything goes if it serves the “national cause” and orszagkepepites – which can be anything depending on the circumstances, in this case “spreading lies about the prime minister”) or such behaviour cannot be punished, which boils down to a weak political society. Perhaps both applies at the same time. I would not be surprised if it were true, the specific programme of OV is not meant that seriously, it is just the veil.

latefor
Guest

Eva,
“Just about a year ago I learned that the wife of a couple I have known for over twenty years broke up. She just married a woman.”
I have a message for all the men out there:
“please bring the pussy back to fashion!” (This is a new movement someone have just started in my adopted country)! Ha…ha…ha…(Love it!!!!)

wpDiscuz