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President Áder signs amendments to the Higher Education Act

April 12th, 2017

After President Áder ordered the promulgation of the amended Act on Higher Education, political polarisation has reached new levels in the Hungarian press.

President János Áder signed the Higher Education Act on Monday and in an unusual written statement released afterwards explained his decision stating that university courses accredited in Hungary are not in jeopardy. He invited the government to start immediate talks with the foreign owned universities concerned to guarantee that the conditions stipulated in the new law are met. Answering questions by opposition MPs about why his government wants to chase the Central European University from Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told Parliament on Monday that Hungary is not closing down any universities. He said a fake news campaign is underway against Hungary. The CEU management say the university will stay in Budapest by all means. Deputy Rector Éva Fodor told Klub Radio that some courses might eventually be transferred elsewhere.

In 168 óra, Ákos Tóth a former leading Népszabadság commentator calls János Áder  ‘President of the Regime of National Co-operation’ rather than of Hungary. (The RNC – NER in Hungarian – was a term used in the early 2010s by the government side but is now commonly used in a sarcastic sense by the government’s opponents.) Tóth dismisses the President’s explanations and concludes that he has missed an opportunity to show that he was serious when he urged reconciliation before his re-election by Parliament earlier this spring.

In Népszava. Judit N. Kósa, another former Népszabadság journalist sees nothing at stake in whether the President signs the law or not. (The commentary was obviously written before the President’s decision was announced at 7 p.m. on Monday, but was posted at 6.12 a.m. on Tuesday.) The President might slow down the procedure, she writes but ultimately the law would come into force anyway. In an aside, Kósa calls the President a “well-known puppet”.

In Magyar Idők, Ottó Gajdics condemns those anti-government demonstrators who threatened reporters of pro-government outlets. He asks the organisers of what he calls a ‘clockwork precision international network that easily brought tens of thousands of people from throughout Europe onto the streets’ why they could not rein in a few thousand radical participants. He warns them that angry people on the government side ‘do not have infinite patience for such atrocities.’

In Magyar Hírlap, Mariann Őry thinks that the campaign against the new law is part of an international propaganda war. The headline of her editorial describes the participants of Sunday’s mass demonstration as ‘Soros Jugend’. She notes the presence of prominent left-wing leaders among the tens of thousands ‘whom they themselves would be unable to mobilise but whose presence they intend to profit from’. She sees the conflict over CEU as part of an international offensive by liberal organisations supported by Hungarian-American businessman George Soros and quotes the examples of Albania and Macedonia where these foundations have directly promoted politicians in their struggle for power.

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