László Sólyom, former President of the Republic, first President of the Constitutional Court, academic and university professor, died at the age of 81, on Sunday. He passed away after a long illness, which he had borne with great strength, activity, and serenity.
László Sólyom was a member of the Constitutional Court from 1989 to 1998, served as its first President from 1990 to 1998, and was the third President of the Republic from 2005 to 2010. As a legal scholar and university professor,
he played an invaluable role in the development and consolidation of the Hungarian legal system after the fall of communism.
FactLászló Sólyom was born in Pécs in 1942, his father a first-generation intellectual and lawyer. In 1960, he was admitted to the Faculty of Law at the University of Pécs (southwestern Hungary), where he graduated in 1965, and later obtained his doctorate in German civil law from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, after defending his dissertation in March 1969.
From the early 1980s, he was a legal adviser to informal environmental movements, and from 1984, he was a participant in the Danube Circle (an environmental organization). In 1987, he became a founding member of the Hungarian Democratic Forum political party.
Black flag on the balcony of the Sándor Palace. Photo via MTI/Balogh Zoltán
He played an important role in Round Table Talks in the run-up to the regime change (1989). During this period, he developed his theses on constitutional reform, including data protection and the structure of the Constitutional Court.
In 1989, he was elected one of the first five members of the Constitutional Court, which was created with the change of regime, and was soon elected as its first president.
After his term as Constitutional Judge expired, he remained active in public life in addition to his academic work, and was elected President of the Republic by Parliament in 2005, a post he held until 2010.
He was the third President of the Third Hungarian Republic, after Ferenc Mádl and before Pál Schmitt.
Among others, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the political party LMP, the Árpád Göncz Foundation, and the Data Protection Trade Association bade farewell to László Sólyom.
The green party, LMP, noted that Sólyom “made an unparalleled contribution to the definition of the framework of the rule of law and the resulting principles of constitutionalism.” They wrote that as the first President of the Constitutional Court, he was a deeply committed defender of Hungary’s constitutional institutions. As President of the Republic, he saw his office as an institution independent of political parties, where his person was not the primary consideration, but the highest public office he represented. His career as a jurist earned him international recognition.
The Árpád Göncz Foundation emphasized that László Sólyom was a decisive figure of democratic change in Hungary. In particular,
he did a lot for the fulfillment of Hungarian constitutionalism and the enforcement of human and civil rights during his constitutional court activities.
The Data Protection Trade Association also highlighted that Sólyom’s career as a legal scholar gained international recognition. “We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his research in the fields of data protection, freedom of information, individual rights, and fundamental constitutional rights,” they concluded.
Via MTI, Featured image via MTI/Balogh Zoltán