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Former Hungarian Smallholder’s Party Leader József Torgyán Has Died

Tom Szigeti 2017.01.23.

According to Hungarian wire service MTI, József Torgyán, who served for years as the head of the Independent Smallholders’ Party (Független Kisgazdapárt—FKGP), has passed away at the age of 84. Speaking to MTI, his family said that Mr. Torgyán passed away on Sunday morning, surrounded by close family.

News site Ripost reported last December that Torgyán had been hospitalized with congestive heart failure.

Mr. Torgyán, who also served as Hungary’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development during the first Orbán government, was born on November 16th, 1932, in the northeastern Hungarian town of Mátészalka.

He attended high school in Budapest from 1946-1950, while at the same time studying violin at the College of Musical Art. He completed his university studies in 1955 with a law degree, and would go on to practice law until 1990.

During the events of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, Mr. Torgyán joined the Smallholders’ Party, then officially known as the Independent Smallholders, Agrarian Workers and Civic Party, and would play an instrumental role in 1988 when the party was reconstituted. He would go on to serve as the party’s leader from 1991 to 2002.

Mr. Torgyán served in the Hungarian National Assembly from 1990 to 2002; during that time, he twice served as his party’s parliamentary group leader, first in 1990 and then between 1994 and 1998. In addition, during his last years in parliament he served as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development from 1998-2001, during years when his party was in coalition government with Fidesz and the now defunct MDF party.

His wife, Mária Cseh née Torgyán, an opera prima donna from the city of Pécs, also served as a Member of Parliament from 1994 to 2002.

In 2000, the Smallholders’ Party chose Mr. Torgyán to be their candidate for President of the Republic of Hungary, but he refused to accept the nomination.

The 1998 elections would be the last time that representatives of the Smallholders’ Party won seats in the Hungarian parliament; the years following saw the party suffer from internal strife and charges of corruption, and not a single FKGP member would be seated in the 2002 election.

The collapse of the Smallholders’ Party would not spell the complete end of Mr. Torgyán’s political ambitions, however.  In 2007, he founded the Movement for Renewing Hungary party, which operated for one year.

And, speaking to Magyar Nemzet last spring, Mr. Torgyán expressed his continued, if limited, interest in politics:

Since I find politics to be a trash pile, and since I will be 84 this coming November, I have no desire to return to politics. That being said, my wife and I have experienced such kindness on the part of the Hungarian people, that would be impossible to repay. For this reason, I have decided help work to resurrect the Smallholders’ Party, and I will not allow myself a moment’s rest until I achieve this goal. I no longer wish to be involved in the party’s operation, because I have already been stabbed in the back once before. In addition, there are such huge problems in this country, that only young people can fix them.

Via MTI, Hungary Matters, and Magyar Nemzet

Image via MTI

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