Hungary: Pal Schmitt gone, who will preside Hungary?

3 April 2012 – Presseurop Rzeczpospolita, HVG, Hospodářské Noviny

The resignation of Hungarian President, Pál Schmitt, over accusations of plagiarism concerning his doctoral thesis, is causing reactions in Hungary and the neighbouring countries. All go beyond the actual facts of the case to concentrate on the political climate, marked by the dominance of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's party, in which the affair was revealed.

Although the government of Viktor Orbán is accused of drifting towards authoritarianism, the resignation of Pál Schmitt proves that in Budapest, "democracy functions," notes Polish daily Rzeczpospolita. According to the paper —

It turns out that the democratic mechanisms worked as they should [...] and Schmitt has proved the left-wing press wrong. If Hungary is the country depicted in the European press then the president should not have resigned. He was protected by immunity, was backed by a majority and had the sympathy of the Prime Minister. [...] Among the many crimes charged against the government of Viktor Orbán, there is the fact of having allegedly destroyed the independent media. Yet, it was the opposition press [HVG magazine] that revealed the serious charges against the Head of State chosen by the ruling Fidesz [Party] that led to the resignation. [...] The free press played its role efficiently. So, how are freedom of expression and democracy doing in Hungary? Not bad, in the end.

In HVG, Gaspar Miklos Tamas writes ironically of "poor uncle Plagi" derived by combining Pali, the nickname for Pál, with plagiarism. The resigning president, according to the philosopher, was nothing more —

… than the fall guy for an ethical mish-mash for which he was not responsible. He acted as he learned to act among the dregs of the old regime and, until the end, he failed to understand that, for the generation with democratic and free-market illusions, this was both amusing and disgusting.

This point of view is shared by Martin Ehl in the Czech daily Hospodářské Noviny. According to the leader writer —

Schmitt was no more than a puppet which Orbán could get rid of at any time. The plagiarism charge that finally made him resign was nothing more than a stick brandished by that media close to former socialist and free-market leaders.

As for Schmitt's successor, his name —

… will provide an indication of the strength of Viktor Orbán and of the Fidesz two years after the launch of their hard-line national and international policies. Given Hungary's inauspicious situation in Europe, the Hungarian Prime Minister would be well-advised to impose a personality without a party, even without any political affiliations but who is well-known abroad. However, if the Parliament choses someone from the hard-core of the Fidesz, more headaches can be expected, in Budapest as well as in Brussels.

Factual or translation error? Tell us.