Hungary re-elects centre-left government

Mon 24 Apr 2006

24.04.2006 - 09:46 CET | By Mark Beunderman
Hungary has re-elected its centre-left government led by current prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, who now faces a huge task to trim his country's soaring budget deficit.

Hungarians voting in the second round of general elections on Sunday (23 April) granted a second term to the ruling coalition of socialists and liberals, while the conservative opposition saw its support slip back.

The socialist-liberal victory represents the first time since the fall of communism that a government has been re-elected in Budapest .

Mr Gyurcsany's Socialist Party and the Alliance of Free Democrats increased their share in the country's 386 seat strong parliament from 198 to 210 seats, according to official results with over 98 percent of votes counted.

The Conservative Fidesz group lost four seats, ending up at 164, while the centre-right Hungarian Democratic Forum gained 11 mandates.

"We have won!" prime minister Gyurcsany, a millionaire businessman, claimed before supporters on Sunday according to press reports.

"We understand the responsibility we have been given. We have to create a better, more successful Hungary that is better to live in," he said.

The centre-left victory comes despite serious economic troubles in the country, which saw its budget deficit hit 6.1 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) this year - presently the highest figure in the entire EU.

Budapest aspires to join the eurozone in 2010, but Mr Gyurcsany's government has recently clashed with the European Commission on a number of occasions over what Brussels sees as insufficient efforts to cut the deficit.

EU rules stipulate that eurozone membership require a public deficit under 3 percent of GDP.

Mr Gyurcsany is planning to hold a non-binding referendum on joining the eurozone by 2008, but is insisting it will adopt the EU common currency even if a majority of the country's citizens votes against it.

All EU states that entered the bloc in 2004 are legally obliged to join the eurozone, with Hungarian officials indicating a "no" vote would not change this fact.

Source: EUobserver