Contrary to the first news, this was not in fact the party’s official decision, but rather the initiative of the party organization in Budapest. Otto von Habsburg was well-known and popular in Hungary, thanks to his many visits and the documentary about his life, which premiered at this time. Thus his nomination was particularly well-received by several members of the party. The leadership of the Independent Smallholders, however, expressed displeasure that the initiative was not launched by the appropriate bodies. Otto von Habsburg stated in several interviews that although he did not entirely rule out accepting the nomination, in the given circumstances he considered that he could do more for his country within the European Parliament.
Later in his letter of 12 October 1989, he set out clearly that he would not run as a candidate. His statement and the result of the referendum on 26 November, which put the Presidential elections after the Parliamentary elections, changed the standpoint of the initiators of the idea as well. Despite the contents of his letter, Otto von Habsburg would still have been open to a new request in the early months of 1990, but it was not forthcoming.
On the basis of an agreement between the two largest parties, the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) and the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), Árpád Göncz became the prospective candidate for the post of President and was eventually elected on 3 August 1990. The rapid political transformation of Hungary in just a few months took the issue of the nomination of Otto von Habsburg off the agenda. The son of the last Hungarian king, however, retained his popularity in Hungary after 1989 and continued to play an important public role during the years of transition until his death in 2011.
Otto von Habsburg’s response to the request
The document published here can be found in the collection maintained and researched by the Otto von Habsburg Foundation.