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Weeklies on President Áder’s re-election

March 20th, 2017

The re-election of János Áder as President of Hungary by the government majority in Parliament prompts conflicting evaluations of his performance as head of state and of the role played by his only opponent, jurist László Majtényi who fought a symbolic battle to make his case as an alternative candidate.

In 168 Óra, Zoltán Lakner admits that the opposition candidate had to overcome a difficult dilemma in accepting his nomination, as he had earlier urged the opposition to boycott the election of new constitutional court judges as a means of de-legitimising the “incumbent regime”. On the other hand, he considered that by not being able to nominate their own candidate, the opposition parties would have shown a dangerous weakness, which they could ill afford. Majtényi used the opportunity to describe why he opposes the way the country is run by the present government, and thus succeeded in resolving his dilemma. Lakner acknowledges that Mr Áder made a fair speech and perhaps even expressed some mild criticism of the government when he spoke about what he termed a “shortsighted mercantile attitude”.

In its weekly unsigned editorial, Magyar Narancs deems Mr Majtényi’s candidacy a not altogether hopeless exercise.  He could feel behind him, the authors write, more than 260,000 signatures collected against the planned Budapest Olympics, the new left-wing approach sought by Socialist PM hopeful László Botka, as well as the energy of “real NGOs”, increasing discontent “in homes and in the streets” and the embarrassment of the “regime’s scrupulous supporters”. The editors dismiss President Áder’s speech as a worthless effort to dodge the problems facing the country, “perhaps because he didn’t want to lie too much”.

In Heti Válasz, editor Gábor Bórókai criticises the pro-government press for its negative campaign against László Majtényi and other opposition figures, who are presented to the public as mere puppets of the “Soros Empire”. He recalls that Prime Minister Orbán has never lacked courage and this was how he became Prime Minister for the first time at the age of 35; this is also how he managed to take on the whole European Union over the migration crisis. He and the country owe a lot to his courage, he suggests. But the courage of others deserves respect too, Borókai writes. All the more so, since the Prime Minister has himself been the target of crude attacks in the past. He has been called a fascist, lies were spread about his mistreatment of his wife, and so on. Such injustices should have told his supporters what is tolerable in the treatment of opponents and what is not, he concludes.

In Demokrata, Péter Farkas Zárug expresses similar distaste towards negative campaigning. He recalls his own positive assessment of Mr Majtényi as a person and as a public figure when the jurist resigned from his post as chairman of the radio and TV board shortly before he would have been entitled to eight million forints in severance pay, because he disagreed with the decisions taken by the board majority. His think tank is certainly subsidised by one of the Soros foundations, he continues, but that doesn’t qualify him as a man acting in bad faith. Even if Mr Áder’s re-election had not been one hundred percent sure, it would have been immoral to wage a smear campaign against his opponent, the pro-government analyst writes. On the other hand, he flatly dismisses opinions according to which Mr Áder is simply the government’s yes-man. On the contrary, he recalls, the President has vetoed dozens of laws and thus contributed to keeping a tighter rein on what Zárug calls “legislative hyperactivity”.

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