The rumours about Prime Minister Viktor Orbán longing for the building housing the Office of the State President have been going around for a while. Now it looks like Orbán is really considering a move to the Sándor Palace.
The government leader already rebuilt the interior of the Presidential Seat, the Sándor Palace, during his first governing period (from 1998 to 2002) completely following his own taste. Among others he installed a conference room with all the newest technical gear.
After renovating the real estate on the Buda Castle Hill, he also built a completely new constitution in 2011. In this document there were already proposals to widen the scope of the President’s rights – for example to give him a right to dissolve the Parliament if „the trust of the public in the state” would be shaken.
The constitutional lawyers evaluated this move as a response for the violent clashes outside the Parliament in 2006. However, the proposal finally did not make it into the new constitution. Still, this could change due to the renewed two-thirds majority of the governing party Fidesz.
As the left daily newspaper Népszabadság reported, Orbán is seriously considering taking over the responsibility of the state head, once the mandate of President János Áder expires in 2017. However – as constitutional lawyer György Wiener emphasised in his interview to Népszabadság: the mediating and compromising role that was expected of the President until now would be quite hard to imagine for Orbán to play, who likes to think in terms of friends and foes.
At the moment Orbán is leading a war on many fronts, at least verbally. Moreover, Wiener is certain that Orbán would only operate as President if the roles and responsibilities of the highest office in the state would be strongly widened. The term of the so-called semi-presidential system as a new state form is popping up again and again as a possibility.
We still have to wait and see whether the speculations will be realised. One thing is sure though, the tenacity of the rumours about Orbán longing for the Sándor Palace is not to be underestimated. There has been a relevant joke going around in Hungary in the last ten years as well: “Why was St. Steven’s holy crown moved in 2001 from the National Museum to the Parliament? So that King Viktor can wear it whenever he feels like it.”