New Hungarian 'center-right' president takes office

New Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom took office Friday, becoming the third leader of state since the 1990 transition to democracy.

The inauguration was held at the Sandor Palace in Buda Castle, which has housed the president's office since 2003. Outgoing President Ferenc Madl's five-year term ended midnight Thursday.

"I hope for the trust and support of the Hungarian people," Solyom said in a short speech.

Solyom, 63, was elected by parliament June 7 in a third round of voting. He defeated the candidate of the governing Socialist Party, parliament Speaker Katalin Szili, in a 185-182 vote.

Solyom was nominated in parliament by the main center-right opposition party.

Friday's inauguration was ceremonial because Solyom was sworn in immediately after his victory in parliament. About 50 guests attended, mostly leading politicians and civil authorities.

"I wouldn't want to have myself celebrated with hussars and cannon salutes," Solyom said Thursday on state television. "This reflects my presidential agenda, to work humbly."

Solyom also was critical of politicians' methods, whom he said spent their time attacking each other instead of dealing with important issues.

"My aim is to change this style," Solyom said. "Keeping quiet can be an important example. There's no constant need to make statements."

On Friday, Solyom again reminded politicians of their oath to serve the country and keep people's interests above all.

"I represent and embody the state," Solyom said. "But it is necessary to note that I am not the state and those sitting here are not the state. The state is constituted by the Hungarian people."

In Hungary, the president has a largely ceremonial role and most political power rests with parliament and the government led by the prime minister.

Proposals are being discussed to reform the political system like cutting the number of parliamentary deputies or electing the president by popular vote and granting him wider powers, but isolated changes are unlikely.

"Hungary's public administration is like a spider web," political analyst Zoltan Kiszelly said. "When you touch one corner, all of it shakes."

Chief justice of the Constitutional Court in 1990-98, Solyom first became known for his environmentalist activities in the mid-1980s. He was part of the Danube Circle, a groundbreaking social movement in then-communist Hungary, was formed to oppose the construction of a pair of large dams on the Danube River.

Solyom also took part in negotiations in the late 1980s between the opposition, civic groups and the ruling Communist Party that set the conditions for Hungary's return to democracy, the AP reports.

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