June 30th, 2010

Pal Schmitt elected new president of Hungary

Hungary’s parliament on Tuesday elected Pal Schmitt as the next President of the Republic of Hungary.

Schmitt, who has been speaker of the new parliament, was nominated by the governing Fidesz-Christian Democratic party alliance.

In the secret vote, Schmitt received 263 votes while his Socialist challenger Andras Balogh got 59 votes from among the 386 deputies.

Only 322 votes were valid: radical nationalist party Jobbik announced before the vote that they would leave the ballot blank while green party Politics Can Be Different refused to pick up their ballots because they believed that the candidates listed on the slip were unsuitable.

This means that Schmitt, a Fidesz party stalwart, only received support from the Fidesz-Christian governing alliance.

Schmitt, 68, is a former diplomat and Olympic fencing champion, who is to take office on August 6 after President Laszlo Solyom’s term expires on August 5.

Whereas the post of president is largely ceremonial in Hungary, Schmitt will have a role to play in certain constitutional matters. He can, for example, choose to send legislation to the constitutional court for review.

Fidesz is planning sweeping changes to the constitution itself and to the way constitutional judges are selected.

Before the vote, Schmitt said that Hungarian society expected its president to be open to cooperation and to be close to the people, someone who can be approached and who always stands ready for dialogue.

Schmitt, who has been speaker of Hungary’s new parliament, emphasised his desire for impartiality, and said that the president should help all parties to perform to the best of their ability.

The candidate repeated his earlier position that he did not wish to act as a counterweight to the government but to adopt a balanced approach while easing any possible political tensions.

Schmitt also repeated that he did not wish to “hinder the momentum of the government” and added that he trusted the laws parliament adopted would stand the test of constitutionality.

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