By Kester Eddy in Budapest
Published: February 22 2003 4:00 | Last Updated: February 22 2003 4:00
Hungary's Socialist-liberal coalition government suffered its first big blow
since taking office last summer when Elemer Kiss, minister for the prime
minister's office, resigned yesterday after a short-lived scandal.
Mr Kiss, a lawyer, became embroiled only this week in controversy involving
conflict of interests after an opposition-leaning magazine revealed that the
legal firm in which he was a partner had last year signed contracts with
Malev, the state-owned airline, and the national motorway company to conduct
Peter Medgyessy, the Hungarian prime minister, said that while he accepted
the resignation with regret, it was necessary for the sake of transparent
"This is a government of clean hands. It started that way and we will
protect that to the end," Mr Medgyessy said.
Since Mr Kiss was not a member of parliament, the resignation will not
affect the government's slim parliamentary majority.
But the resignation could prove to be a significant psychological boost for
Fidesz, the leading centre-right opposition party, which has repeatedly
alleged that the Socialists, as political descendants of the communist
Workers' party, have enacted only an external transformation to a democratic
party while maintaining a murky "old comrades' network" with firm links
between political and business interests.
"This is only the tip of the iceberg. It will now become clear if the rule
of law applies [in Hungary] or rather the network of old friends and
business," Zoltan Pokorni, a leading Fidesz member, said yesterday.
Mr Pokorni called on the prime minister to examine all contracts drawn up by
the prime minister's office since last summer, when the Socialists took
Political analysts were cautious about the extent of the damage to Mr