Commentators across the political spectrum pay their tributes to former President Árpád Göncz who died at the age of 93 in Budapest on Tuesday. As political leaders expressed their appreciation of his career, regardless of their affiliations, analysts underline his role as an outstanding actor of the democratic transition.
Népszabadság features a full page photo of Árpád Göncz on its front page, not even leaving space for its usual daily editorial. In a full page commentary inside, Sándor Révész remembers that the liberal statesman was often in conflict with the conservative government during his first term in office from 1990 to 1995. When a left-liberal government came to power in 1994, the already aging president did not oppose its measures, although he sometimes should have, Révész remarks.
On HVG online Gáspár Miklós Tamás, now a Marxist thinker, and one of the founders with Göncz of the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats, writes that his death reminds him of what he calls the ‘death of democracy’ as they imagined it in 1989. Although this ‘happened years ago.’ He refutes the assertion that the extremely popular Göncz was ‘everybody’s president’. No, Tamás continues, he was not the president of the ‘neo-Horthyites,’ that is of those who seek historic examples to revere in interwar Hungarian history.
On Válasz, Balázs Ablonczy also sees Mr Göncz as a man strongly anchored on the left-liberal side of the political and cultural divide, but praises him for having been able to leave ‘his comfort zone‘ and attend the unveiling of the Turul statue at Tatabánya (the biggest bird statue in Europe, representing the totem of ancient Hungarians, restored in 1992) and having accepted a seat on the committee in charge of erecting a statue to Pál Teleki, a rather anti-Semitic pre-war Prime Minister who committed suicide in 1941 when Hungary let Nazi troops through her territory to attack Yugoslavia.