Hungary in the 1980’s and 1990’s

The 12th congress (1980) of the Magyar Szocialista Munkáspárt (MSzMp, in Italian POSU) was followed by the renewal of the National Assembly (June), which, in the inaugural session, reconfirmed G. Lázár as head of the government and Fr. Losonczi as president of the presidential council (head of state).

The main measures adopted in the context of the economic reform, oriented towards decentralization of the system, concerned the strengthening (1982) of small private enterprises (mainly active in the service sector) and agricultural cooperatives, and the reform of the management system of large state-owned enterprises (1985) whose management, partially detached from the central bodies, was subjected to greater control by the workers; for the latter, wage differentiations linked to profits were introduced. The Lázár government also adopted a policy of encouraging foreign investment and gradual liberalization of foreign trade; passed a new bankruptcy law (1986), which abolished state subsidies for bankrupt companies, and modernized the financial sector.

Parallel to the implementation of the economic reform, with the aim of coping with popular discontent (the expression of which remained limited to sporadic protests and short work stoppages) the government established the introduction of the five-day working week (1981) and granted repeated increases in wages and pensions, which did not, however, compensate for the continued rise in the cost of living. The attempt to broaden popular participation in political life led to the adoption of a new electoral law (1983), which made the presentation of two candidates for each of the 352 seats in the Assembly mandatory, and no longer only possible, as since 1971. national (to which 35 seats were added to be assigned on the basis of a list of public figures);

In March 1985, the 13th congress of the MSzMp reconfirmed J. Kádár at the head of the party (with the new position of Secretary General); the congress took note of the further deterioration of the country’s economic situation, due, according to the same official analysis, to the persistence of structural problems such as low productivity and technological backwardness, while a limited reduction in foreign debt was indicated by Kádár as a result the policy of containing consumption; the economic policy approach adopted in 1980 was then reconfirmed by the congress.

Against the background of the continuous deterioration of the economic situation in the months following the congress, the first signs of a serious crisis of the regime emerged: within a few years it was to lead, by virtue of a process of gradual institutional transformation, to a profound change in the structure politician of the country and therefore at the end of the communist experience. Within the party, the positions of criticism towards Kádár, articulated on the request for an institutional reform (in particular for greater autonomy of state bodies from the party) and for the adoption of a broader economic reform, gradually strengthened; the secretary of the Popular Patriotic Front, I. Pozsgay, he was among the main exponents of the reformist positions and in September 1987 he criticized the stabilization plan as insufficient. The Communist Youth League also sided in favor of a greater democratization of the country, while reformist exponents of the party participated, in September 1987, in the constitution of an independent political body, the Hungarian Democratic Forum (Magyar Demokrata Fórum, MDF). The contrast between the two currents intensified in the following months and resulted in the party’s ideological conference of May 1988. It marked the victory of the reformists, whose main demands, including that of a democratization of the internal life of the party, became part of the final document. Kádár was replaced by K. Grósz and assumed the honorary office of party president, being ousted from the Politbjuro, which instead joined Pozsgay and R. Nyers (the head of the economic reform of 1968). In June, K. Németh was replaced as president of the presidential council by F. Straub, a renowned scientist who was not a member of the party, while in November Grósz left the office of president of the Council of Ministers to a member of the reformist camp, M. Németh. Meanwhile, the

During 1988 a number of new, moderate political groups were formed: the Alliance of Young Democrats and the Alliance of Free Democrats; Traditional parties were reorganized such as the Small Independent Owners Party (Fuggetlen Kisgazda Part, FKgP), the Hungarian Social Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic People’s Party (Kereszténydemokrata Néppárt, KdNp). After the approval by the National Assembly of a law on freedom of association (January 1989), the project of transition to a multi-party system was also adopted by the MSzMp. In the following months, contacts between the reformist sector and the opposition forces intensified; after a further weakening of Grósz’s position and Kádár’s removal from the party presidency and the Central Committee, in June 1989 a Round Table was launched between representatives of the party, the opposition and the official union (which withdrew shortly after), to define a new institutional framework and the modalities of transition.

During the course of the talks, two episodes took place which took on a strong symbolic meaning and which, together with the changes that took place in the international context (formation of the first non-communist government in Poland), contributed to accelerating the outcome of the talks: in June the funeral honors made to I. Nagy (officially rehabilitated after the publication of a report by the party’s historical commission in which the events of 1956 were defined as a ” popular uprising ” and no longer a ” counterrevolution ”) saw a broad popular participation, while in August a large workers’ demonstration took place to protest against the economic policy adopted by the government; a further expression of

On the basis of the final agreement of the Round Table (September 1989) the National Assembly then approved numerous constitutional amendments in October such as the abolition of the constitutional clause on the party’s leadership role, the creation of a Constitutional Court and the establishment of the office of President of the Republic, provisionally attributed to the President of the National Assembly itself, M. Szűrös; the latter on 23 October 1989 proclaimed the Republic of Hungary, thus formalizing the end of the people’s republic. In the course of the talks the positions of the anti-communist forces underwent a differentiation and the agreement between the reformist sectors of the MSzMp and the Democratic Forum opposed the moderate oppositions. Free Democrats and Young Democrats in fact contested the agreement (in particular the planned holding of presidential elections before the renewal of the National Assembly) and promoted a referendum, held in November, under which the presidential elections were postponed. Taking note of the profound changes underway, the 14th extraordinary congress of the MSzMp (October 1989) declared the dissolution of the party and the establishment of a new political entity, the Hungarian Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt, MSP), chaired by Nyers; the step was however rejected by a member of the party which in December reconstituted the MSzMp under the leadership of G. Thürmer.

The first multi-party political elections were finally held, in two rounds, on 25 March and 8 April 1990; they marked an affirmation of the Democratic Forum, which with 42.7% obtained 165 seats out of 386; the Alliance of Free Democrats established itself as the second formation with 23.8% of the votes and 92 seats, followed by the FKgP (43 seats), the MSP (33 seats), while both the KdNp and the Alliance of Young Democrats went 21 seats. A coalition government was formed in May between the Democratic Forum, the Smallholders’ Party and the Christian Social, under the leadership of the MDF president, J. Antall, while Á. Göncz, exponent of the Alliance of Free Democrats, was elected president of the Republic ad interim. A constitutional amendment approved in August confirmed the parliamentary election of the President of the Republic (and consequently Göncz was reconfirmed in office), contrary to the direct election foreseen by the agreements of September 1989; the institutional framework was completed by the replacement of the office of President of the Council of Ministers with that of Prime Minister, with enhanced powers, accountable to Parliament.

The government, of centrist orientation and Christian-Democratic inspiration, indicated the reduction of the large external debt and the full transition to a market economy as the main programmatic objectives; in June it announced a privatization plan, while taking steps to limit the social costs of reforms; in the following period, however, unemployment increased sharply (4% at the end of 1990, but exceeded 12% in 1992, stabilizing in 1993) while inflation reached 30% per annum in 1990 (increased to 34% per annum in 1991, dropped to 23% per annum in 1992). The economic difficulties were aggravated by the increase in the price of oil, following the crisis in the Arabian Gulf, and in October 1990 the sudden announcement of a gasoline price hike (65%) caused widespread protests in the transport sector; in the following years there were demonstrations and strikes to protest against the government’s economic policy, especially by workers in the mining sector. The instability was aggravated by repeated conflicts in the government structure and between the latter and Göncz (who in 1991 rejected a law on the persecution of crimes committed between 1944 and 1990). Strong internal tensions went through the same forces of the majority and a division in the Democratic Forum opposed itAntall’s centrist leadership to the right-wing faction led by T. Csurka; the anti-Semitic positions of the latter were the cause of repeated protests and finally, in June 1993, caused his expulsion from the party.

The set of difficulties encountered by the government (led since December 1993, following the death of Antall, by P. Boross, former Minister of the Interior) resulted in a rapid loss of popularity of the majority parties and therefore in their defeat in the elections. legislative of May 1994. The socialists of the MSP, led by G. Horn, former foreign minister of the government of M. Németh, won 209 seats, followed by the Alliance of Free Democrats with 70 seats, while, of the previous coalition, the Forum Democrat won 37 seats, the Smallholder Party 26 seats and the Christian Democrats 22 seats. The new government, constituted by Horn on the basis of a coalition between Socialists and Free Democrats, was approved by Parliament in July 1994. Committed to pursuing the austerity policy, it had to cope with the continuation of social tensions and a strong movement of strikes in the transport sector (April 1995). In June 1995 Göncz was re-elected to the presidency of the Republic. For Hungary 1996, please check

On the international level, the 1980s recorded the continuation of traditional Hungarian politics: in addition to the alignment with the positions of the USSR, unchanged after M. Gorbačëv’s accession to power, good relations were developed with the countries of the western bloc; close commercial relations existed mainly with West Germany and the United States; in 1982 the Hungary she was admitted to the IMF and the World Bank. In relations with other socialist countries there was a strengthening of exchanges and political relations with Poland, while the problem of the conditions of the Hungarian-speaking minority present in Romania was a source of growing tension with the latter, a tension that remained alive even in the former. mid-nineties. The strengthening of relations with Western countries continued to represent a priority in international politics both in the transition phase of the government of M. Németh and in the following years; member of the Council of Europe since November 1990, the Hungary has been an associate member of the European Union since January 1994. Cooperation treaties with Russia and Ukraine were signed in 1991, and in the same year a process of economic and political integration was initiated with Prague, Warsaw and, from January 1993, Bratislava.

Hungary in the 1980's

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