Hungary's socialists, liberals agree outline of new govt

24th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

The prime minister decided to resign after repeatedly failing to get parliament to pass an economic recovery plan aimed at dragging the country, one of the worst hit in Eastern Europe, out of the financial crisis.

Budapest -- Hungary's ruling socialists and their former liberal ally have agreed the broad lines of a new government -- and a new kind of leader, a senior socialist official said Monday.

The news came as Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany prepared to step down, two days after his pledge to stand aside in the wake of constant criticism of him by the right-wing opposition, Fidesz.

But it may take weeks before his departure is officially completed and attention has already turned to who should replace him.

The two parties have decided against forming a new coalition, said Ildiko Lendvai, leader of the socialists' parliamentary group.

But after a first round of talks between the parties' leaders, they agreed to ensure a parliamentary majority for a new government, she added.

And the search was on to find a new kind of leader to replace Gyurcsany, she added.

"We are looking not for a man of politics but for a man who is professionally recognised by all of society," she said.

In comments to parliament on Monday, Gyurcsany made it clear he would not be going back on his decision to resign.

The prime minister decided to go after repeatedly failing to get parliament to pass an economic recovery plan aimed at dragging the country, one of the worst hit in eastern Europe, out of the financial crisis.

"The situation is simple," wrote the centre-left newspaper Nepszabadsag.

"The liberals and conservative want far-reaching reforms, and without them the socialists can't get through parliament the measures needed to counter the crisis while keeping an eye on social factors."

But on Monday, Gyurcsany lashed out at Fidesz, the main right-wing opposition, for having no programme of reform to offer as an alternative.

It was Fidesz that had pressed so hard in recent weeks to get rid of him.

"Letting people think there is a way out for Hungary in which reforms are useless and letting families think that they don't have to make sacrifices, this message is the greatest of lies," Gyurcsany told parliament.

For his part, Tibor Navrasics, the leader of Fidesz's parliamentary group, accused the socialists of having failed in their mission. "But you cannot give up power, you are scared of elections," he said.

The right-leaning Magyar paper Nemzet, which is close to Fidesz, also criticised Gyurcsany for not simply resigning, which would have paved the way for early elections.

By choosing his departure by means of a no-confidence motion that he lodged against himself, Gyurcsany has effectively avoided taking the country to the early election that the opposition wants.

"The prime minister's decision respected the constitution, but not its spirit," Nemzet wrote.

According to parliament president Katalin Szili, that confidence motion is unlikely before April 14, which means the socialists and liberals have time to find his replacement.

A simple majority among the 386 deputies will be required for the motion to pass.


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