Governing coalition voices support for PM, reforms after poor showing in polls

Elections

Gyurcsány vowed to stay in office Sunday night at a press conference after the coalition parties suffered a major setback in local elections. Just after polls closed on Sunday, Hungarian president László Sólyom gave an unusual speech which was interpreted by many to urge MPs to consider the election results as a referendum on the person of the prime minister and take the necessary steps. "The prime minister… has not admitted that he had used inadmissible methods to retain power... this attitude undermines confidence in democracy," Sólyom said, referring to Gyurcsány's admission that he had lied about the state of the country before the April general election. "Now Parliament has a chance for action. The government is answerable to Parliament, which decides on who is prime minister. Parliament is in a position to restore social confidence. The key to the solution is in the hands of the parliamentary majority," he said. The president also said, however, that putting Hungary's public finances in order was a priority for any government.

Hiller said on Monday that for the moment, power was "divided" between central and local governments, and it was crucial that the two make an effort to cooperate. Speaking on the same television program as Hiller on Monday morning, head of SZDSZ Gábor Kuncze said there no option but to move ahead with the government's reform program. He noted, however, that this "does not necessarily require personal changes". What is necessary is a commitment to reform, Kuncze said, and Gyurcsány meets this requirement. Mihály Varga, deputy head of Fidesz, the biggest opposition party, reiterated the party's proposal for forming a provisional government of technocrats. Varga conceded that belt-tightening measures were necessary to restore equilibrium to public finances but argued that these measures could not be accepted from a person "who told us to our faces that he had abused our trust." The opposition won 18 of 19 counties and 15 of 23 cities in the local elections. The governing parties lost some ground in Budapest too, but preserved the majority of Budapest districts as well as the post of Budapest mayor where their candidate Gábor Demszky won, albeit by a narrow margin, for the fifth term. (Mti-Eco)

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