The history of the institution
The President of the Republic is the head of state of Hungary. Since the birth of the rule of law in Hungary in 1990, there have been five persons who have served in this office of equal significance in terms of the constitutional order and the democratic functioning of the state organization.
The institution of the President of the Republic already carried symbolic significance on the dawn of the change of the political system with respect to the democratic transformation of Hungary. The constitutional definition of the role of the President of the Republic in a rule of law – including the debate that developed over the method by which the President of the Republic should be elected – was accompanied by serious political debates. In the end two of the opposition parties, Fidesz and the SZDSZ (Alliance of the Free Democrats) refused to sign the Opposition Roundtable agreement, because they insisted that the President of the Republic should be elected by the new National Assembly elected at free and fair elections. In the end it was this position that prevailed. A consensus was also reached, that after the democratic civic transformation in Hungary, the local constitutional order – similarly to other countries of the region – should fundamentally reflect Hungarian traditions and be modelled on the German public order of a parliamentary democracy.
The first President of the Republic of democratic Hungary was writer, literary translator Árpád Göncz. He was imprisoned in 1956 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Later on, he assumed an active role in the change of the political system; he was a founding member of SZDSZ (the Alliance of the Free Democrats). Until his election as President of the Republic he worked as a Member of Parliament for SZDSZ and also a member of the party board. He served two terms, a total of ten years, as President of the Republic from 1990 to 2000.
Ferenc Mádl a jurist, university professor and member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was President of the Republic of Hungary from 2000 to 2005. The renowned expert of international business law and comparative private law was Minister without portfolio and later Minister of Culture and Public Education in the first freely elected government led by MDF.