- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 21, 2002

BUDAPEST, Hungary Just a few weeks after recent national elections, the long-established daily Magyar Nemzet identified Hungary's new prime minister barely installed in office as an informer in the communist secret police.
In 1990, at the time of the regime change, Hungary decided not to pursue or punish the many who in one way or another served the communist regime, so it is not unusual to find ex-communists in various important positions. In 1994, the former communists were even elected to run the country for a term, reconstituted as the Hungarian Socialist Party.
But an informer as prime minister is something new.
According to the published document, Peter Medgyessy was promoted to first lieutenant of the secret police in 1978, when his services under the code name D-209 became even more important than before. All that time, Mr. Medgyessy appeared to be working at the Ministry of Finance. What has become clear is that his real superiors sat in the dreaded Ministry of the Interior, overseer of all state security, including counterespionage.
Mr. Medgyessy was able to form a government at the end of May because the Free Democrats agreed to a coalition with the Socialists. Even so, his majority is almost as slender as that of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate. In 1990, the Free Democrats, organized their party to ensure that communists would never again touch the levers of power. While they have long abandoned their original charter, an informer of the communist secret police as prime minister appeared more than they were able to swallow.
Still, after signs of an impending earthquake, the Free Democrats must have struck yet another deal, for any talk of withdrawing from the coalition and forcing the resignation of Mr. Medgyessy's government disappeared literally in the dead of night.
Apparently, they were content with a public apology for not informing the voters before the elections, which Mr. Medgyessy provided repeatedly and with gusto. While doing so, he also assured the electorate that he had harmed no one and that he had undertaken this assignment "to assist Hungary's entry into the International Monetary Fund."
Even if we believe Mr. Medgyessy's story, questions remain.
The published document, which confirms his promotion in 1978, gives the year of his entry into the service as 1961. That was a time when the Hungarian government no doubt on Soviet instructions was still engaged in hanging teenagers for participation in the 1956 uprising. Sooner or later, details of his service during those long years will have to be disclosed.
As well as ending up with fabulous riches in a poor country, Mr. Medgyessy was appointed deputy prime minister under the Soviet occupation. Considerable services rendered by him appear reasonable to presume. Incidentally Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, president of the now-ruling Socialist Party was still writing books of effusive praise about the Bolshevik Party, and the Soviet Union as the sole source of economic bliss in the world, during the 1970s.
Under these circumstances, it will not come as a surprise that methods used during the communist decades have acquired a new currency in Hungary.
The office of the prime minister owns the printing plant that, under long-term contract, puts out the daily issues of Magyar Nemzet the newspaper that broke the story. That printing contract has been canceled without notice or negotiations.
Further, a general "political cleansing," affording room for personal vendetta, is under way. A widely reported example: The new culture minister dismissed the music director of Budapest's famed Opera House, effective immediately. The reason? The music director had been appointed under the previous government.
That his contract had four years left to run was nullified by the fact that, some time ago, he had failed to cast the wife of the present culture minister in a leading role.
For the first time in a decade, serious demonstrations took place in Budapest, and, also for the first time, serious police action was deployed against the demonstrators often elderly, retired people. It is difficult to gauge whether the story has run its course or whether this important NATO ally still in the middle of a crisis.
Adverse commentary around Europe appears to be fizzling out after some considerable initial concern. But as yet, no one knows for sure just what Peter Medgyessy did during his years as a trusted communist informer.

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