Hungary's transition to a Western-style democracy was one of the smoothest among the former Soviet bloc. By late 1988, activists within the party and bureaucracy and Budapest-based intellectuals were increasing pressure for change. Some of these became reform socialists, while others began movements which were to develop into parties. Young liberals formed the Federation of Young Democrats (Fidesz); a core from the so-called Democratic Opposition formed the Association of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), and the national opposition established the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF). Civic activism intensified to a level not seen since the 1956 revolution.
In 1988, Kádár was replaced as General Secretary of the Communist
Party, and reform communist leader Imre Pozsgay was admitted to the
Politburo. In 1989, the Parliament adopted a "democracy package", which
included trade union pluralism; freedom of association, assembly, and
the press; a new electoral law; and in October 1989 a radical revision
of the constitution, among others. A Central Committee plenum in
February 1989 endorsed in principle the multiparty political system and
the characterization of the October 1956 revolution as a "popular
uprising", in the words of Pozsgay, whose reform movement had been
gathering strength as Communist Party membership declined dramatically.
Kádár's major political rivals then cooperated to move the country
gradually to democracy. The Soviet Union reduced its involvement by
signing an agreement in April 1989 to withdraw Soviet forces by June
National unity culminated in June 1989 as the country reburied Imre Nagy, his associates, and, symbolically, all other victims of the 1956 revolution. A national round table, comprising representatives of the new parties and some recreated old parties-such as the Smallholders and Social Democrats-the Communist Party, and different social groups, met in the late summer of 1989 to discuss major changes to the Hungarian constitution in preparation for free elections and the transition to a fully free and democratic political system.
In October 1989, the communist party convened its last congress and
re-established itself as the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP). In a
historic session on October 16 - October 20, 1989, the Parliament
adopted legislation providing for multiparty parliamentary elections
and a direct presidential election. The legislation transformed Hungary
from a People's Republic into the Republic of Hungary, guaranteed human
and civil rights, and created an institutional structure that ensures
separation of powers among the judicial, executive, and legislative
branches of government. On the day of the 1956 Revolution, October 23,
the Hungarian Republic was officially declared (by the provisional
President of the Republic Mátyás Szűrös), replacing the Hungarian
People's Republic. The revised constitution also championed the "values
of bourgeois democracy and democratic socialism" and gave equal status
to public and private property.
Hungary extensively reformed its economy and strengthened its ties with western Europe; in May 2004 Hungary became a member of the European Union.