The office of the President of the Republic was the Palace of Sandor, but the name of the office on whose behalf he worked and sometimes responded to the press was the Office of the President of the Republic. It’s not a particularly eye-catching name, but it did express what millions of Hungarians dreamed of during decades of the one-party system. That is really unlovable – we put it humbly – From a people’s republic it became a republic. At best, we can only guess at whose ears and eyes the term republic might hurt. On the other hand, the legislation, which currently only exists in draft form, is likely to be voted on by a Fidesz majority in Parliament.
Crossing out the word republic from the office’s name is of symbolic significance. It was the same when we said goodbye to the Third Hungarian Republic almost 12 years ago, on December 31, 2011. At that time, many people hoped that the enforced absence would be short. We looked with sad eyes at the pictures published in the press, where happy people changed signs, and Republic of Hungary instead of the Hungary Caption added. They did their work on orders, and they could not help them, if they had not changed the signs, someone else would have done it for them.
Many of us loved the Republic, it was important to us. He was so good with her because we wanted him to be good. We waited for him, in the mornings and days, during the house parties, and the night he saved the world. We imagined what it might be like, and everything turned out as it usually happens with love: longing was more beautiful than fulfillment. (However, speaking among ourselves, the latter is also very good.)
Our republic was not perfect. It was nowhere near as clean as we dreamed of. Turbulent waters, ideas and people, daring fools accompanied him on his way: followers of professionals and nodded knights of economic prosperity, deceitful eyewitnesses, pious potters of nothingness. And we must also admit that it was frustrating for many of us that it did not bring us prosperity along with freedom.
But overall, it was nice to live in a republic. And not just because the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship. We lived under a good dictatorship. In the most cheerful barracks, where everything that was not forbidden was free. We had the best dictator ever. Janos Kadar allowed the Hungarians more than he allowed their oppressors, the Bulgarians, East Germans, and Czechoslovaks.
If the current bill goes into effect, Hungary will be a place where the President of the Republic works in the palace. Based on the past performance of Catalin Novak, it can rightly be assumed that she will sign the law changing the name of the Office of the President of the Republic to the Sandor Palace without hesitation.
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