Former PM Péter Medgyessy congratulates Azerbaijan’s ruler for his “excellent” work

Former Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy, who governed Hungary from 2002 to 2004 and led a Socialist-Free Democrat coalition government, felt it was appropriate to issue an effusive congratulatory letter to Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan. Mr. Aliyev won 86% of the popular vote in an election that the OSCE determined had involved widespread ballot box stuffing. This did not seem to concern Mr. Medgyessy, nor was he bothered by the systemic rule of law violations under President Aliyev’s 15 year-long tenure. Mr. Medgyessy wrote:

“I wish to express my congratulations on your recent re-election as President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. This will allow you to continue the excellent and successful work you had started years ago. I am writing this not only as former Prime Minister and a true friend of Azerbaijan, but also as a regular participant at the Baku Forum founded by you and as a member of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center. These institutions create a platform of discussion between politicians representing different visions of the world, but having the same ambition of making it a better and safer place and there is a need for such a way of thinking these days.

Please accept once again my congratulations and my sincere good wishes of success for the future.”

Péter Medgyessy in ATV’s studios in 2017.

One of the more insightful and nuanced pieces on President Aliyev was an editorial in The New York Times from 2015. The editorial emphasizes that President Aliyev is a cunning and savvy leader. He speaks excellent English, he is very presentable, his country supplies both Europe and Israel with gas and oil, and he knows how to leverage pop culture to his advantage and to boost Azerbaijan’s image abroad. For instance, his country hosted the Eurovision music festival in 2012. At the same time, media freedom under his rule has been seriously curtailed, journalists have been the targets of police raids and some reporters have even landed in prison–perhaps most notably Khadija Ismayilova, who reported on systemic corruption. Her transgression was that she investigated the corruption of the Aliyev family itself, which obviously hits rather close to home for the president.

Our more astute followers of Hungarian politics will see a parallel with Hungary here. The word in opposition circles is that an opposition publication has been told that it is permitted to publish articles critical of the government, but the line which must not be crossed is publishing articles that go after Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s family for alleged corruption–at least if they wish to continue receiving advertising revenue from the state.

This piece, however, is not about Mr. Orbán’s rule. It’s about the proclivity of leading figures once associated with the Hungarian left to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with authoritarian rulers, with little to no reticence. For instance, just in the past few days Katalin Szili, the former  Hungarian Socialist Party MP and Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament from 2002 to 2009, gave an interview to the Magyar Hírlap government propaganda daily. One year into Mr. Orbán’s rule, in 2011, Ms. Szili accepted a government posting and helped draft the country’s new constitution. Since 2015 she serves as an adviser to Prime Minister Orbán.

When speaking with Magyar Hírlap in late April she said that Hungary truly needs an authentic and “Christian” left. She added that Viktor Orbán is probably best qualified to build one.

“I continue to believe that there is a need to have a real left-wing party–one that is patriotic and adheres to Christian principles. In today’s world, the nation must be given a much greater role. Truth be told, after the third two-thirds victory by Fidesz, I must begin to believe that there will only be a political force like the one described above if Viktor Orbán organizes it,” remarked Ms. Szili. She added that Hungarian society was “wise” to vote for Mr. Orbán, and that Hungarians “voted against the view that simply serves cosmopolitan and global interests.”

In 2005, Ms. Szili was the Hungarian Socialist Party’s candidate for President–a position elected by parliament. MSZP and its partner the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) should have had the votes to elect her, but in the end SZDSZ pulled out and Fidesz, from the opposition, managed to elect its own candidate, the conservative László Sólyom. Many on the left were livid. Today, Mr. Sólyom is a vocal critic of the Orbán regime, while Ms. Szili is an essential part of it.

Mr. Medgyessy, for his part, speaks with the media a handful of times each year, mostly to comment on the dismal state of the left. In congratulating President Aliyev, he is following in the footsteps of Mr. Orbán who had sent his own praise to the Azerbaijani leader.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *