During the early stages of the transition, Hungary seemed to be one of the most promising and stable of all of the members of the former bloc experiencing the "Great Transformation." Hungary's image in the West was that of a country that had practiced a relaxed form of socialism. Hungary seemed to enjoy an advantage over other East European regimes, because it had experimented with market socialism since 1968, when the New Economic Mechanism (NEM) was first introduced. Consequently, it could be argued that the Hungarians had already developed a kind of enterprise culture, which gave them a head start.
The transition in Hungary was the result of a negotiated break between the regime and the democratic opposition. 1 Perhaps it also came the closest to Timothy Garton Ash's notion of "refolution." 2 In a sense, the Hungarian revolution might aptly be described as a revolution from above, because it was promoted by a group of reform Communists interested in devising a set of arrangements that would allow them to preserve as much power as possible. This proved to be impossible when the first set of free elections in over 40 years took place in March and April, 1990. The elections resulted in the victory of a conservative-centrist coalition, which was led by the Hungarian Democratic Forum (HDF). The HDF was founded in 1987 and consisted of three wings: a Christian wing, a liberal wing, and a