László Székely ombudsman nomination: reaction


With current state Ombudsman Máté Szabó’s term of service up in September, the sitting government has put forth his replacement, as President János Áder last week made official the nomination of László Székely for the post. Currently a lecturer at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Székely had been rumored for the position for some time, having worked with Orbán-led governments in various capacities as far back as 1998 – this doesn’t mean that reaction and opinion weren’t quick in some cases.

Coalition parties Fidesz and KDNP naturally approved the nomination immediately, while Jobbik President Gábor Vona groused that “László Székely’s ties to Fidesz are well known,” added that his party’s official opinion would come later. Info Rádió reported opposition party LMP to be concerned about Székely’s experience and doubted that he would be prepared to take any counter-government position.

LMP Party Co-Chairman András Schiffer was quoted later as stating that he was “disappointed” with the choice; while describing Székely as an excellent university professor and academic, he would represent the “last bastion of constitutional law” and therefore would at times be required to conflict with the government line. According to Schiffer, Székely has never “taken on a conflict with an orange government.”

And Democratic Coalition (DK) Party Vice-President Csaba Molnár’s view was nearly identical, opining that “Székely may be suitable for the post because of his close ties with the governing party. However, it is questionable whether he will have the political and moral determination, the courage, which is essential for the preservation of the Ombudsman’s independence.”

MSzP party members refrained from publicly making any snap judgments regarding Székely, with MP Pál Steiner stating that his party would “take the President’s suggestion seriously and the MSZP caucus will decide on the issue at its first meeting of the fall session of parliament.” No official comment has been made by members of Gordon Bajnai’s Together 2014-Dialogue for Hungary coalition, though Index.hu described the party as “not minding” the choice.

As for local media, the news portal Origo.hu kicked off its Monday with a long bio/editorial piece on Székely. Calling the choice “no big risk,” the editorialist echoes Schiffer’s concerns in citing “hardly a trace” of work on civil rights – a serious matter with potential great amendment to the Hungarian Civil Code upcoming.

Clearly the largest teeing-off on the choice of Székely appeared on a news-focused blog, the Hungarian Spectrum. Written by Yale professor and Hungarian native Éva S. Balogh, the post contends that Áder’s supposed consultation of other parliamentary party representatives was essentially a sham.

Fidesz-style consultations shouldn’t mislead anyone, especially if they are initiated by János Áder. It’s true that occasionally he makes gestures to demonstrate his “independence,” but by and large he is faithful to Fidesz dogma. There is no question in my mind that the person was already picked after some consultation between Viktor Orbán and his closest associates way before the leaders of the parliamentary delegations were invited,” wrote Balogh.

Balogh ultimately concedes (sort of) that, despite lacking “proper grounding in international law,” Székely may end up a good ombudsman, although “Viktor Orbán rarely makes mistakes on personnel choices.”

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