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Europe

Hungarian parliament elects former Olympian as new president

The Hungarian parliament has elected former Olympian Pal Schmitt as the country’s new president to replace the outgoing Laszlo Solyom, whose five year term in office ends next month.

new Hungarian president-elect Pal Schmitt

Schmitt takes office in August

Hungary's governing Fidesz party has chosen Pal Schmitt, a two-time Olympic fencing champion, to be the country's next president. The position is a largely ceremonial role.

Schmitt cleared the two-thirds majority needed for election in the 386-seat parliament by five votes, well ahead of his nearest rival, Andras Balogh of the opposition Socialist Party, who received 59 votes.

Schmitt, who will take over from current President Laszlo Solyom on August 6 for a five-year term, told parliament in a speech before the vote that the Hungarian government had to be harmonious in order to overcome the country's problems.

"In the current situation, when we undertake rebuilding the country economically, socially and morally, it is imperative that the president get along with the prime minister, as well as all leaders and government members," Schmitt said.

The 68-year-old Schmitt was elected parliamentary speaker in May. In the 1980s, he was a high-ranking sports official in the communist regime. Prior to that he won fencing gold for Hungary at the 1968 Mexico City Games and the 1972 Munich Games.

Critics fear Schmitt will be too accommodating to Fidesz's plans, including an overhaul of the country's constitution. His views are seen as largely in line with that of the Fidesz party.

Author: Darren Mara (Reuters/AFP)
Editor: Rob Turner

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