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Former PM Horn dies at 81

June 21st, 2013

Commentators remember the former Prime Minister, and agree that Gyula Horn could become a key figure of the transition because he remained a committed Socialist.

With his death, we have lost an outstanding personality of Hungarian history,” reflects Róbert Friss in Népszabadság. Former PM Gyula Horn died on Wednesday, June 19 at the age of 81, after a long illness.The left-wing columnist believes that Gyula Horn was able to lead his MSZP to electoral victory and become Prime Minister of Hungary in 1994 despite his involvement in the Communist pro-Soviet militia in 1956 because he understood the importance of symbolic politics. In 1989 as Foreign Minister, with his Austrian counterpart he symbolically cut the Iron Curtain, and by doing so, he repositioned himself as a pro-Western reformist politician, Friss notes. Another factor of his success in 1994 was his ability to speak the language of everyday Hungarians, Friss continues. He adds that despite his contempt for liberalism, Horn did not shy away from necessary but painful liberal reforms.

In Népszava, György Sebes writes that PM Horn was a politician always open to compromise. This pragmatic approach and his ability to connect with everyday Hungarians made Horn successful, despite his Communist past and the painful pro-market reforms he had to put through while in office. In an aside, Sebes remarks that PM Horn never misused his power as head of a Socialist-Liberal government which enjoyed a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

“,” writes Ádám Tompos in Magyar Nemzet. The conservative columnist thinks that Horn was an important figure in the pre-1990 Socialist period, who could rebrand himself as a pro-reform politician. However, rather than initiating the transition, he symbolically endorsed the democratic turn, which was by then unstoppable. Tompos notes that despite the harsh neoliberal economic policies introduced in 1995 under Finance Minister Bokros, PM Horn remained committed to genuine left-wing values unlike his Socialist successors including Péter Medgyessy, Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai who were all top businessmen before they were elected premier.

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