BUDAPEST, HUNGARY —
Deteriorating public discourse in Hungary risks demolishing the country's achievements since the 1990 return to democracy, President Janos Ader said Monday.
Ader told lawmakers after his induction ceremony in Parliament that politicians should not follow the example of tabloid publications and involve each other's families and sexual or religious identities in their disputes.
"It's not worth measuring who started it, who was the first to be crass, who stepped first over the line," Ader said. "There is a year left until the elections, and the majority of voters surely does not want to live during this time atop a volcano preparing to erupt."
Ader also said the government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party, had more responsibility in the matter.
The comment was a possible reference to often unfounded, libelous reports attacking opposition politicians and activists. The reports have appeared both in state media and in private media benefiting from copious government advertising.
The president also apologized to anyone he may have "hurt or offended" during his first term, which began in 2012. Lawmakers re-elected him to a second five-year term in March.
Ader himself has been the target of pointed, sometimes crude criticism because of his decision to not challenge recent amendments to Hungary's higher education law which could force a university founded by American billionaire George Soros in 1991 to leave Budapest.
The opposition Socialist Party and a few other opposition deputies did not attend Ader's induction, saying he failed to live up to his office's stated principle to represent all Hungarians.
Ader "was a Fidesz party soldier until 2012 and he remained so as president of the republic," the Socialists said. "His person and activities did not for a single minute unite the Hungarian nation."
Orban will be seeking his fourth, four-year term in April 2018. Current polls show Fidesz with a sizable lead over the divided opposition parties.