Hungary’s former president calls Orbán regime aggressive and merciless

László Sólyom served as President of Hungary–a largely ceremonial role–between 2005 and 2010. Mr. Sólyom, an environmentalist who was well respected among conservatives and many liberals as well, was Viktor Orbán’s ally at the time. He was elected President of Hungary by Parliament–which at the time had a left-centre majority–thanks to the strategic machinations of Fidesz, then in opposition, and the fact that the now defunct Alliance of Free Democrats, the coalition partner of the governing Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), was not willing to support the Socialist candidate for President, Katalin Szili. (As an aside, today Ms. Szili works for Mr. Orbán, as a consultant in the Prime Minister’s Office–how things have changed…)

Mr. Sólyom, now 74 years old, has led a relatively private and quiet existence since the end of his five year term as president. He spoke up on occasion against the new Fundamental Law introduced by Fidesz, which replaced the former constitution–a document, which the former president was intimately familiar with, having served on the Constitutional Court of Hungary during the nineties. Mr. Sólyom was also seen playing a very commendable, yet humble role during the refugee crisis in Budapest last summer. He was a volunteer with the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service and handed out cookies to refugee children in and around the Keleti Pályaudvar train station.

He certainly wasn’t engaging in this good deed for the media attention. In fact, he has largely evaded journalists. For instance, when his wife Erzsébet died in February 2015, he managed to keep this news from the tabloid press for a full eight months. The media only found out about the death of the former president’s wife in October of that year and even in that case, Mr. Sólyom provided no public statement.

Hungary's former President, László Sólyom, seen in this MTI file photo hiking with his late wife, Erzsébet.

Hungary’s former President, László Sólyom, seen in this MTI file photo hiking with his late wife, Erzsébet.

But when Mr. Sólyom does make the occasional public statement, people certainly pay attention. The former president was a speaker and moderator Wednesday evening at a gathering of conservative intellectuals, who have been increasingly critical of the Orbán regime. The so-called József Eötvös Group, named after a nineteenth century Hungarian writer and politician, was formed in late 2015 and has been quite sharply critical of the populism and demagoguery of the regime, as well as its oligarchic nature. Regular members of the group include Attila Chikán, a former minister of the first Orbán government (1998-2002), Béla Kádár, a minister of the conservative Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) government, which assumed office in 1990, and Péter Ákos Bod, former Governor of the Hungarian National Bank. Another regular participant is András Schiffer, leader of the Politics Can Be Different (Lehet Más a Politika – LMP) green party. Mr. Schiffer is a friend of Mr. Sólyom, and he was present Wednesday night, to listen to the former president’s speech.

Mr. Sólyom used particularly stinging words for the politics of Fidesz and Mr. Orbán, especially in terms of their top-down, authoritarian and regressive approach to public education. “The main characteristics of the regime include aggression, centralization and mercilessness. With this, they also take the necessary reforms down a completely wrong path,” noted Mr. Sólyom. He then added: “We are talking about critical problems, that not a single government has been able to solve. These include poverty, the state of public health care and schooling.”

Mr. Sólyom, who also moderated the evening, commended protesting teachers for their bravery. In fact, Mr. Sólyom joined one such protest earlier this year, near a Buda school.

Much like the former president, the  József Eötvös Group has worked largely under the radar. Initially, they met in private, although more recently, representatives of the media have been invited.  They show a completely different face of Hungarian conservatism–or what it could be. I suspect that many of the group’s members are now loosely affiliated with LMP, even though the small opposition protest party started off very much to the left of the Socialists on many socio-economic issues.


  1. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Unfortunately, the Conservative Sólyom did more than any other Conservative, to propel the autocratic Orbán to the Prime-Ministership between 2006-2010. He joined in the partisan fray against Gyurcsány, he participated willingly in fomenting hatred towards Gyurcsány’s government and did absolutely nothing to promote reasonable discourse and consultation at a time when Hungary faced its biggest crisis after the collapse of Communism. He turned his back on dialogue, in a haughty, categorical, and irresponsible manner, when he refused Gyurcsány’s invitation to attend a national, bipartisan consultative process, to deal with the 2008 financial crisis. By categorizing public consultation as antithetical to the functioning of the modern State, Sólyom wrote himself out of the history books as a respectable constitutional scholar. He should be ashamed of himself. Conservatism is a legitimate political orientation. It should not serve as a safe haven for those, who helped to undermine constitutional democracy in Hungary.

    • As always I have a question that remains unanswered.

      Are they incompetent, stupid or very smart. Not just Solyom or Orban. Any time I ask this question, everybody assures me they are simply stupid and ask me not to search for reasons behind their actions.
      They say: “Believe me they are simply stupid and incompetent”

      Occam razor or double talk? I would call people stupid if I am sure they are. But people do foolish things and get hurt. Again, people do foolish things and remain unhurt, what’s more they rise.

      Are people stupid, or just underlings in a greater project and are controlled and payed well? Than I might ask, what is the plan, what is the project, where are we heading for, who is at the top of the pyramid, who do they work for, who gives them order.

      Is Orban a loyal Freemason “47 Orbán Viktor B”NAI-BRIT (USA) FIDESZ” taking order, or a traitor to the Freemasonry and the NWO. Wouldn’t be the only one. Or what’s wrong with Solyom “55 Sólyom László PALLAS (német) AJ”

      What’s going on?

      (I have checked many other sources, same.)

      • Richard,

        If you read some history or political science (not daily news) you will see the patterns. They are not so mysterious; forget Freemasonry, NOW, Council of Elders of Cion and other mumbo jumbo.

        The dictatorial systems work in a very similar way:
        – the first criteria in promoting party cadre is loyalty, eventually ruthlessness, competence only follows, if any.
        – Directions and actions are often calculated to serve political goals, incl. criminal ones in the Orbán regime case, and not the real needs of the various systems. Consequently these systems deteriorate.
        – Decision making in governing is concentrated in the hands of the dictator or a very narrow circle of party potentates without competence. Since autocratic rule does not like/tolerate contradiction, the experts often advise to please. This way there is no effective mechanism to correct erroneous strategies or mistakes.

        In the Orbán regime the real goals are power and money and these goals have been achieved and overachieved.

        • So, you are saying the same thing, forget about those who control the world, who shuffle the cards, who create the pattern which only allows two faced liars and psychopaths to stay in power, don’t even make questions about them, don’t care about our daily news, be engaged in studying political science etc.

          Do you know who I am? I big nobody, I tiny drop in the ocean. My questions are so insignificant and childish they don’t even reflect on the more serious questions and reactions of the awakening humankind and societies.

          And there’s gonna be answer. You and your false lecturing guidance and your commonplace explanations are history. And I only wrote a nothing more than post and questions that are only a 0.1% of the serious questions emerging in the awakening societies. That post of mine was truly insignificant. There’s gonna be changes, more than Orban and his dictatorship is eliminated only to give place to another one (read history) or as you wrote “Consequently these systems deteriorate.” and will drag the whole world of human civilization into chaos and Armageddon.

      • @Richard

        ” I have a question that remains unanswered…” you wrote and I attempted a simple answer (for a simple, a very simple blogger it seems, or worse, as I look at what your source is).

  2. @András B. Göllner
    “.. who helped to undermine constitutional democracy in Hungary…”

    Spot on. Solyom might have had some good intentions, but he was way off the mark and he definitely bent his conscience in supporting what more politically astute observers knew was a budding fascism. Unfortunately being a political dupe (balfácán) is not really an excuse, he should have known.

    BUT, we should acknowledge anyone who fights against the orban mafia.

  3. In his case, as with many…..the road to hell is paved with good intentions. He really should have known better.

  4. Avatar Miklos Banfi says:

    I absolutely agree with Mr. Göllner, Observer. (with Liz – always:)
    I always considered him a “political dupe” in the last 15 years, had hard time to understand his views, if he is coward or brave? He seemed very inconsistent, but have to say, that never showed malicious intent.
    I wonder if he should have known better.

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