May 29th, 2011

Former Hungarian president Mádl dead at 80

Former Hungarian president, Ferenc Madl, has died at the age of 80, the head of the presidential office told MTI on Sunday.

Norbert Kiss said that Madl, who served as president of the republic between 2000 and 2005, died on Sunday just after 1pm.

President Pal Schmitt expressed his “deep pain” at learning of Madl’s death, the presidential office said in a statement, adding that Sandor Palace would hold a silent commemoration starting from 6pm today in respect of the former president.

“Pal Schmitt learnt with deep sorrow of the former head of state’s death, and on this day personally expressed his condolences to [Madl’s] family,” the statement said.

Schmitt placed a ribbon of bereavement on the national flag in front of the presidential palace and paid tribute to Madl in front of the deceased president’s photograph. The photograph in a black frame has been placed on a table next to two candles, a flag and a bouquet of flowers. Schmitt lit a candle and wrote the first entry in a book of condolences.

Schmitt said Madl had not only been his predecessor but also a friend and a role model.

Arrangements for Madl’s funeral will be made later, he said.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban wrote on his Facebook page: “We are shocked to hear the news. May he rest in peace!”

The Fidesz party in a statement said that Madl’s life and work had been an example to everyone.

“It has caused us pain and grief; Ferenc Madl’s life and work in service of the nation and the country stands as an example to us all,” the statement said.

Madl, holder of the Szechenyi Prize the French order of the Légion d’honneur was born in Veszprem County in western Hungary on January 29, 1931.

He was nominated to the presidency by the centre-right Fidesz party and its then coalition partner, the Smallholders’ Party, in June 2000, and assumed office on August 4.

He served as minister without portfolio in the first post-communist government of Jozsef Antall and was education minister in 1993-1994.

He graduated in 1955 in the public-administration and law faculty of Budapest’s ELTE university before completing a law degree in Strasbourg between 1961 and 1963.

Between 1956 and 1971 he worked in the law department of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and later headed the department before pursuing a distinguished career in law.

Madl’s predecessor, Arpad Goncz, was “greatly shocked to hear of the former head of state’s sudden death.” Goncz’s secretariat said in a statement that Goncz had greatly esteemed Madl’s presidential endeavours, his academic work, and his charming and approachable personality.

“Ferenc Madl did much to ensure that the Hungarian Republic should have friends in throughout the world,” the statement said.

Cardinal Peter Erdos, head of the Catholic Church in Hungary, said in a statement that Madl had been “a worthy symbol of out nation for many years”.

The leader of Hungary’s main opposition Socialist party, Attila Mesterhazy,expressed his “sincere condolences” in a statement. He said the nation would preserve the memory of Madl in its heart, adding that Madl had kept the interests of the entire Hungarian nation in focus, and had not only represented the country abroad but had also engaged in politics at home, too.

Both small opposition parties also issued statements of appreciation and condolences upon hearing the news. Green party LMP said the former president had been respected abroad as a professor of law and he had an enduring effect on Hungary’s European integration.

Radical nationalist party Jobbik in a statement expressed its “sincere condolences” to Madl’s family and friends.

Madl’s predecessor as the president of Hungary was Arpad Goncz and he was succeeded by Laszlo Solyom.

Solyom said he remembered Madl with deep-felt gratitude and respect because he was a fatherly patron and helper of many young lawyers. They considered him an exemplary figure for his professional and human qualities alike. He said he had great respect for Madl’s activities as president and he had been glad to follow in his footsteps.

Hungarian public television M1 will change its Sunday night programming to include a portrait of Madl prepared using previous interviews. The head of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Jozsef Palinkas will talk about the former president.

Madl is survived by his wife Dalma, a son and three grandchildren. The cause of death has not been revealed.

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