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Dr. Sandór Wekerle
The Plebian Premier

Dr. Sandór Wekerle was born in the fateful year of 1848 and was Hungary's first non-noble Premier.  He served from 17 November 1892 to 1 January 1895.  He was appointed Premier again, serving from 8 April 1906 until 17 January 1910.  During this time, he oversaw an effort by the King to introduce universal sufferage into Hungary as had been done in Austria in 1907, but the ministers of parliament so resisted the scheme (and the Army's refusal to create a separate army for Hungary) that they held up the 10-year "Delegations" negotiations over the customs union between Austria and Hungary.  Wekerle stood on the podium as armed Honved troops stormed the parliament and forcibly closed it down.  The customs union was then negotiated, some concessionary bones thrown to the nationalists regarding the army, and Wekerle got back to business implementing new customs rules.  During this time, he was also Hungarian Finance Minister (from 1906 to 1909), resigning after his program to establish a national Hungarian bank failed.  This scandal also fixed his position as Premier.  Wekerle became Premier of Hungary for the third time on 20 August 1917, succeeding Móric Graf Esterházy von Galantha.

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The Government of Dr. Sandór Wekerle

The war-time government of Dr. Sandór Wekerle consisted of the following ministers:

Minister of Agriculture:  Béla Mezsssy (20 August 1917 to 25 January 1918); Sándor Wekerle (25 January 1918 to 11 February 1918); Count Béla Serényi (11 February 1918 to 31 October 1918)

Minister of Commerce:  Béla Graf Serényi (20 August 1917 to 25 January 1918); József Freiherr Szterényi (25 January 1918 to 31 October 1918)

Minister of Defense: 
Sándor Freiherr Szurmay

Minister of Finance:  Gusztáv Gratz (20 August 1917 to 16 September 1917); Sándor Wekerle (16 September 1917 to 11 February 1918); Sándor Popovics (11 February 1918 to 31 October 1918)

Minister of the Interior:  Gábor Ugron (20 August 1917 to 25 January 1918); János Tóth (25 January 1918 to 8 May 1918); Sándor Wekerle (8 May 1918 to 31 October 1918)

Minister of Justice:  Károly Grecsák (20 August 1917 to 25 January 1918); Vilmos Vázsonyi (25 January 1918 to 8 May 1918); Gusztáv Tasry (8 May 1918 to 31 October 1918)

King's Personal Minister:  Aladár Graf Zichy

Minister of Religion and Education:  Albert Graf Apponyi (20 August 1917 to 8 May 1918);  János Graf Zichy (8 May 1918 to 31 October 1918

Minister Without Portfolio: 
Móric Graf Esterházy (25 January 1918 to 8 May 1918)

Minister Without Portfolio for Croatia-Slavonia and Dalmatia:  Károly Unkelh Susser

Minister Without Portfolio for the Economy:  Béla Faldes (20 August 1917 to 8 May 1918)

Minister Without Portfolio for Election Reform:  Vilmos Vázsonyi (20 August 1917 to 25 January 1918)

Minister Without Portfolio for Food:  János Graf Hadik (23 August 1917 to 17 January 1918);  Ferenc Nagy (17 January 1918 to 25 January 1918: acting Minister);  Lajos Herzog von Windischgraetz (25 January 1918 to 25 October 1918);  Ferenc Nagy (25 October 1918 to 31 October 1918): acting Minister)

Minister Without Portfolio for Welfare and Labour:  Tivadar Graf Batthyány (20 August 1917 to 25 January 1918
Dr. Wekerle visits Vienna shortly after becoming Hungarian Finance Minister, 1906.
Ever the Dutiful Servant--but to King or Country?

Karl had wanted to find a Premier who was not slavishly devoted to the German alliance.  It seemed that no Magyar was capable of putting the Empire's interests foremost in his mind.  Former Premier Tisza had certainly considered the German alliance a guarantor of Hungarian autonomy.  As Andrassy was an almost fanatical supporter of Germany, he was considered no possible candidate for Karl.  Esterházy was far less vocal; on the other hand, he was a disciple of Andrassy's.  His fall paved the way for Karl's choice of Wekerle, who was definitely no follower of the vocal Andrassy, but who, on the other hand, was not any less vocal on the need for strong ties to Germany. 

The German Ambassador was fascinated by Wekerle's optimism upon taking office, considering the enormity of the problems facing the new Premier, from public war-weariness and bread riots to the tangling troubles of the 1917 customs union discussions.  Pushing these issues to the side, Wekerle decided to make suffrage reform his main target.  This policy had destroyed Esterházy government before it had even begun, so why Wekerle took it upon himself is not quite clear.  It certainly affected his optimism in no small way.  Meanwhile, the parliament reacted to Wekerle's mandate by splitting.  Tisza gathered the anti-reform parties on one side, and
Károlyi assembled the suffrage reformers on the other. 

Oddly enough, Wekerle believed his mandate for suffrage reform came from the United States, when President Wilson published his famous Fourteen Points, of which number Ten stated that "The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development."  To Wekerle, this sounded like a green light for suffrage reform that would also guaratee the integrity of historic Hungary.  Meanwhile, Austria would be partitioned among the Entente victors, or so Károlyi thought. 

Wekerle's ambitions extended beyond parliamentary reform.  Following the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Roumania had no choice but to sign a treaty with Austria-Hungary.  Wekerle demanded frontier rectifications as compensation for damage done by the Roumanian invasion of 1916.  Since he considered his requests inconsiderable, they were not subject to negotiation.  However, Foreign Minister
Czernin managed to get the Roumanians to sign away 5000 kilometres of territory to Hungary, and 600 to Austria.  By June 1918, Wekerle had also gotten King Karl's consent to implement reforms in the army, so that the Hungarian language could be used in Magyar army units.  He trumpeted these successes to cover his terrible failure to bring about suffrage reform.  But, he could not help but form a new government.  Tisza was satisfied that his coalition of parties had killed suffrage reform forever. 

Meanwhile, Wekerle was trying to deal with South Slav reform, which was being exacerbated as the war dragged on.  He believed in "divide and conquer," wherein he accepted the notion of unifying Croatia-Slavonia with Dalmatia (under the Hungarian crown), but on the other hand, rejected any idea of adding Bosnia-Herzegovina to the package.  Bosnian governor General Sarkotic maintained that trialism was the only viable solution to the problem and the underlying point of the war.  Wekerle let the Germans know that he was in favour of a Hungarian solution to the South Slav problem as opposed to an Imperial one; no trialism could be expected from Wekerle. 

By the end of September 1918, Wekerle felt he had to respond to Austria's reform plans by telling them that relations between Austria and Hungary had never been so bad before.  He was referring to the trialist proposals and even the Austro-Polish solution that refused to die, even as the Western Front was breaking and the Balkan Front was advancing steadily.  On the same day that Bulgaria was suing for peace with the Entente, Wekerle was pushing for ratification of the Treaty of Bucharest, which would allow formal annexation of Roumanian territory by Hungary. 

On 10 October, King Karl had informed Wekerle of his intention to transform the Empire into a Federal State.  Wekerle panicked and relied on Tisza, Andrassy, and
Burián to pressure Kar linto leaving Hungary out of this scheme, on grounds that it was a violation of the Hungarian constitution and therefore threatened civil war.  On 16 October, Karl had to announce that the federal scheme was for Austria only, and had no bearing on Hungary.  Meanwhile, Wekerle was convinced that dualism was all but finished, and Hungary would soon strike out on its own.  But, reality could not escape Wekerle, who was forced to concede to the unification of South Slav territories on 22 October.  This was tantamount to the acceptance of an independent Jugoslavia. 

The next day, Wekerle resigned as Hungarian Premier but it was refused by the King, who was too busy with the collapse of the war effort to find a new Premier.  At the same time, Burián left the Foreign Ministry and Andrássy replaced him there.  Wekerle remained in the office, burning papers, until 31 October 1918, when he was replaced by János Graf Hadik von Futák.  Now, Hadik lasted less than 24 hours in his Premiership, for a workers strike and revolutionary outbreak caused the
Archduke Josef to offer the position to Károlyi late on 31 October 1918, who had the honour of beating Hadik to the Premier's office early the next morning.

Dr. Sandór Wekerle died in 1921.

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