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Schmitt leaves a controversy behind

April 4th, 2012

Columnists draw conflicting conclusions from President Pál Schmitt’s resignation.

In Magyar Nemzet Zsuzsanna Körmendy contends that the events have shown the moral superiority of the conservative forces. She deplores the fact that left-wing politicians did not shrink from attacking and humiliating the President when he had just resigned for moral reasons – even though his plagiarism case was much less harmful, in her view, than the political misdeeds of several left-wing prime ministers over the past two decades. And they were never urged by the left-wing press to resign. Several right-wing newspapers, by way of contrast, did call upon Mr Schmitt to quit.

In a front page editorial, Népszabadság lays the blame squarely on Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Not so much because of the President’s plagiarised doctoral thesis, but because of his loyalty to the parliamentary majority. Mr Orbán, Népszabadság suggests, chose Mr Schmitt knowing that he would sign all bills passed by Parliament, no matter how controversial they would be roulette considered at home and abroad. That is just what the President did, and by doing so, Népszabadság contends he gravely impaired the prestige of the presidency. Now Mr Orbán could repair his mistake by forgetting the candidates whose names have been circulating since Monday (leading Fidesz politicians– see Budapost, April 3), and choosing instead Schmitt”s successor from among the many right-wing personalities who are undeniably fit for the job.

In an unsigned opinion piece, Origo.hu remarks that the president’s departure offers Fidesz a chance to prove that the accusations of authoritarianism so frequently levelled against it, are mistaken. After all, Mr Schmitt was demoted as a result of public pressure and the scandal was sparked off by a newspaper article about his doctoral thesis. These facts may serve as convincing arguments in the international controversy over the independence of the Hungarian media, Origo concludes.

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