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Ákos Kertész loses honorary citizenship

September 23rd, 2011

Left-wing papers are fiercely critical of the decision by the Budapest City Council to strip the writer Ákos Kertész of his honorary citizenship, while a leading right-wing commentator believes he should have surrendered it himself after having denigrated his fellow Hungarian citizens.

As BudaPost reported on September 7, the left-wing writer Ákos Kertész published bitter words about Hungarians in general, alleging among others that they don’t object to dictatorship and are the only nation still responsible for the Holocaust, as they have not apologized for it, unlike the Germans. His words provoked indignation on the right and disapproval on the left. Replying to a question from a far right MP, State Secretary for Cultural Affairs János Halász said the government expected Kertész to apologise; if he fails to do so, he would be considered unworthy of his Kossuth Prize. Kertész then withdrew the sentence in which he described Hungarians “genetically servile”, but this was not deemed sufficient and the right wing majority on the Budapest City Council stripped him of his honorary citizenship on Monday. Withdrawing honorary citizenships is a relatively new custom, as 19th Century Austrian and Russian generals as well as Joseph Stalin were stripped of their honorary Budapest citizenships in March this year.

In Népszava János Dési “proudly reminds readers”  that Kertész is a regular contributor to the daily’s opinion page. He admits that Kertész’ writing can legitimately be criticized, but “to exile a fine Hungarian writer among the enemies of  the nation is disgusting”.

It was not a good decision, but it carries no message at all” – contends Népszabadság in a front page editorial.  For the right wing has never considered Kertész an honorary citizen, while the left-wing audience will continue not to ponder on the mistake Kertész has made or its implications, regardless of what the right-wing majority of City Hall may have decided. The public is too divided to have personalities that could enjoy overall respect.

Magyar Nemzet’s Zsuzsanna Körmendy rejects allegations according to which the right wing was motivated by anti-semitic feelings. She believes there was only one way to avoid the unpleasant decision taken by the Budapest Council: Ákos Kertész should have given up his honorary citizenship himself. “The right wing would certainly have appreciated such an act of self-criticism”.

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