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Europe

Hungary's Socialists nominate new prime minister

Hungary's ruling Socialists have formally nominated Gordon Bajnai as the country's next prime minister, paving the way for him to replace deeply unpopular Ferenc Gyurcsany, who announced last month he would step down.

Hungarian parliament in Budapest

The Hungarian parliament will vote on the new prime minister on April 14

Bajnai won the endorsement with 93 percent of the vote at a Socialist Party conference on Sunday, April 5.

A parliamentary vote on Bajnai's selection is set for April 14, but it is seen as a mere formality. More than 200 MPs have already pledged their support -- well above the 193 required to secure a majority.

Gyurcsany at a press conference

Hungary's economic woes made Gyurcsany very unpopular

Gyurcsany announced he would step down last month after he was unable to push his economic measures through parliament. Hungary has been one of the worst-hit European countries in the current financial crisis. It narrowly avoided financial meltdown last year when the International Monetary Fund, the EU and the World Bank stepped in with a 20-billion euro ($27-billion) bailout.

Bajnai, a political independent promoted to economics minister last year, has promised a tough list of measures to tackle the country's economic problems, including scrapping some welfare payments and raising the retirement age.

Bajnai told the Socialist Party conference in Budapest on Sunday that Hungary had no time to waste.

"I am putting it in the simplest and most ruthless way," he said. "Hungarian people have the choice of losing their jobs or temporarily giving up several percentages of their wages."

Protests in central Budapest

Bajnai will take over as prime minister until elections are held in 2010, but tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in central Budapest on Sunday to demand early elections.

Polls show that if an election were held today, the center-right opposition Fidesz party would win in a landslide.

The Fidesz party has denounced Bajnai's plans and has instead called for tax cuts.

But Bajnai has defended his measures. "A crisis managing government is better for Hungary (than early elections)," he said.

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