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SZDSZ – Alliance of Free Democrats – a late obituary

November 12th, 2018

On the 30th anniversary of the foundation of Hungary’s first post-communist liberal party, a former member-turned-critic thinks the organisation played a positive role in creating democracy on the ruins of Communism.

In Magyar Hang, Matild Torkos who joined the Free Democrats early on as a young journalist and then parted with the liberals when they allied themselves with the post-communist Socialist party, remembers the founding of the SZDSZ as an important event of the regime change. She digs deep into contemporary political police files which prove that in the early stages of the changes, the SZDSZ was considered to be a major threat by the regime because it openly stood for western type democracy, rather than some kind of reformed socialism. She acknowledges that beyond that point, the new party was extremely heterogenous with Social Democrats, with conservatives and left-wing liberals only briefly at peace with one other. The SZDSZ owed its popularity to the new and free language of his leading personalities, she writes, as well as to their past – they were the only players who had openly challenged the communist regime over the previous years. All in all, Torkos considers that the SZDSZ was one of the most important factors of the regime change. Although its policies, which were later in utter disharmony with the wishes of the population, resulted in a progressive loss of popularity and even discredited liberalism as such, Torkos concludes, history will perhaps be more lenient to it than its disillusioned voters have been.

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