Ferenc Mádl was elected President of Hungary on 6 June. Mádl, who will take up the position as Hungary's second democratically elected president on 4 August, was only elected by a third round simple majority vote and did not receive the necessary two-thirds in the first and second rounds. The Free Democrats (SZDSZ) and Socialists (MSZP) are the most likely to have voted against even though Mádl had been agreed upon as a compromise candidate, who in effect was unopposed. It is, however, also believed that Smallholder (FKGP) and FIDESZ-Hungarian Civic Party MPs voted against.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made it clear on 7 June that "all coalition MPs voted in line." Political analyst András Körösényi said, "I think it was a protest vote in a double sense - partly against Mádl who is not fully a non-partisan candidate and partly against their [the Socialists'] inability to put up their own candidate.
In his first parliamentary speech, Mádl underlined the importance of Euro-Atlantic integration, the bond with Hungarians beyond the borders and good relations with Hungary's neighbours. He said his main goal would be to establish "peace, reconciliation and co-operation" in political life and in society, adding that it is essential to "distance ourselves from all ideological extremes that have heaped such tragedy on the world, on our homeland and on hundreds of thousands of our compatriots."
József Szájer of FIDESZ predicted that the election of Mádl as president would guarantee a much calmer and balanced environment for political debate. Socialist leader László Kovács said that Mádl's speech had held almost everything that the MSZP had wished for from the ruling coalition during the last two years.
A farmer's protest jammed traffic around the country on Wednesday and Thursday last week. The demonstrations ended peacefully, but already farmers from Baja are saying that they are planning more protests. The demonstrators criticise the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry and minister József Torgyán, and demand that state secretaries of the Ministry resign because of unfulfilled promises and lack of support.
Torgyán responded by saying that the protestors were not real farmers, but instead it was former kolkhoz-style farm bosses who had sent out their employees to demonstrate. He further said that the farmers' demands had nothing to do with why the demonstration was called in the first place, to protest against the Government's failure to honour the "Agropeace" agreement. Instead, the farmers made impossible demands such as calling for a minimum wage in the agriculture sector and repayment of the diesel tax. Torgyán also added that he was going to continue what he called his successful transformation of the agricultural sector.
Foreign Minister János Martonyi has called on the European Union to set a "firm deadline" for the completion of membership talks in 2001. During a visit to Berlin last week, Martonyi met with his German counterpart and the leaders of the Christian Democratic Party and the Christian Socialist Party, who called the preparations Hungary has made for EU membership "excellent." Martonyi also expressed his expectation that the EU stands by its original promise to admit the first countries in 2003.
After the talks, the Foreign Minister was optimistic that most parliamentary parties in Germany support enlargement and Hungarian membership and summed up his visit by saying, "The aim of my talks was to try to convince all factors of German politics to provide such political impulses towards the EU Commission which could again give impetus to the accession talks over the next months. The EU summit in Nice should, at the very least, declare that talks with the most prepared candidate countries could end in 2001."
Viktor Orbán last week made a three-day visit to Morocco, where he told the House of Representatives in Rabat that Hungary is eager to open a gateway to the Arab world via Morocco, as the country is seen as a stable launch pad. Vice versa, Moroccan Prime Minister Abd Ar-Rahman El-Yousoufi said Morocco had chosen Hungary as a bridgehead to the region as Hungary is the most economically advanced country in Central Europe.
The two premiers agreed that there is a need to set up a permanent air link between Hungary and Morocco. On 8 June, Orbán concluded that the most important outcome of the visit had been an agreement to organise a free trade treaty between the two countries. The Prime Minister was hopeful that such agreement could be ready by early 2001.
The 80th anniversary of the Trianon treaty, much debated these days (see news reviews in CER 21 and CER 22), was remembered last week. The Prime Minister, attending a remembrance in Edelény, said that although Hungary has been invaded by five empires in the last 1000 years, all of which are now gone, "we are still here, although [...] not in such large numbers and in not a so large a country as that in which we once stood, but we still exist, we have survived them all, and we are now planning our future."
Orbán once again made it clear that calls for a review of the 1920 treaty would have no impact on foreign policy, as the Government foresees the well being of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin within current state boundaries.
Unveiling a Trianon memorial in Zebegény, József Torgyán took a more critical line, saying, "Now, on the 80th anniversary of the tragedy, we must say that the Trianon peace accord was a predatory dictate, it was an unjust treaty. [...] For us not to speak about this, not to question through polemics whether we have a right to commemorate these things equals to shocking, Middle Age behaviour which has nothing to do with basic human rights."
In Budapest, around 15,000 people gathered in Hősök tere to listen to István Csurka (MIÉP), who said, "it is our moral duty to insist on our historic rights, but there is no realistic possibility of regaining the areas torn away 80 years ago," but, "at least we are entitled to autonomy in Transylvania, Subcarpathia and the Uplands," which, he added, had so far not been forthcoming even though borders all around Hungary had changed.
Meanwhile, in Transylvania, the president of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), Béla Markó, said the party had achieved better results in last week's local elections than in 1996, but remarked that the overall low voter turnout was a sign of political apathy resulting from Romania's centralised political landscape. The RMDSZ has emerged as the strongest party in Covasna (Kovászna), Hargitha (Hargita), Mureş (Maros), Satu Mare (Szatmár), Sălaj (Szilágy), Bihor (Bihar) and Cluj (Kolozs) counties.
In the first round of voting, 110 RMDSZ candidates were appointed mayor, along with 15 independent Hungarian contenders, and another 85 progressed to the second round. Cluj (Kolozsvár), is one of the places where a second round of voting is necessary as the Nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar of the Greater Romania Party failed to secure a majority in the first round.
Magyar Hírlap reports information has leaked that the Budapest Public Prosecution Office has begun investigating a case of extortion involving a police officer from the department of Districts VI and VII. After watching a brothel in these Districts for a longer period of time, detectives of the Public Prosecution Office entered the building to the surprise of the girls, who were expecting a police officer. There, the girls explained that the policeman had threathened to close the brothel unless the "free service" continued.
Using the "services" in itself is not illegal, but extortion is. Later, after following up on a lead, the detectives ended up in an apartment brothel in Angyalföld, where they were met by girls who told them they were surprised by their visit as they have a very good relationship with one of the district's police officers who often visits the girls with his friends. The girls went on to say they had been used for free sexual services, which they thought was very insulting. The paper concludes that although this is the first such case reported in the capital, it may not be the last.
A replica of Attila the Hun's palace will be built on what is thought to be its original location
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On 9 June, two politicians began a two-month long contest to lose weight. The two challengers, Smallholder MP Róbert Molnár and Socialist Andor Schmuck, said that whoever has lost most weight after two months wins, and should the contest end in a draw they will go on for another month. There is however more to the challenge than simply losing weight. If Molnár wins, he expects Schmuck to organise a disznótoros (feast on pig-killing day) with Gypsy music in his electoral area. Should Schmuck win, he will expect Molnár to build a sandpit in a playground in Göd, Schmuck's home town.
Paul Nemes, 9 June 2000