Monday 11 December 2017

Janos Ader elected as Hungary’s new president

Janos Ader delivers his speech after he took his oath as President of the Republic Hungary. Photo: AP
Janos Ader delivers his speech after he took his oath as President of the Republic Hungary. Photo: AP

JANOS Ader, a member of the European Parliament, has been elected as Hungary's new president.

Mr Ader replaces Pal Schmitt, who resigned in April after Hungary's Semmelweis University stripped him of his doctoral degree over charges that he had plagiarised his 1992 thesis.

Analysts say the step guarantees that Prime Minister Viktor Orban's governing Fidesz party will still be able to enact legislation without fear of presidential interference.

Hungarian members of parliament elected Mr Ader to a five-year term by a vote of 262-40. While Hungary's presidency is largely ceremonial, the head of state has the power to send bills back to Parliament for reconsideration or refer them to the Constitutional Court.

The election is sure to fan increasing tensions between Budapest and the European Union. The EU and civil rights groups fear that Mr Orban and Fidesz are engaged in a power grab that restricts basic freedoms and civil rights in Hungary, an EU member.

Mr Ader fanned those fears, addressing parliament in a speech peppered with nationalist imagery after taking the oath of office.

"I say to the people of the neighbouring countries, and to our allies in the European Union and Nato, we offer them friendship and respect - which also means that we expect the same respect and friendship back," Mr Ader said. "The homeland before all else."

Mr Ader, an ally of Mr Orban for nearly a quarter of a century, is expected to follow his predecessor's example of signing into law every bill that crosses his desk.

The Hungarian Socialist Party, the largest opposition formation in parliament, boycotted the presidential election. "If we look at Janos Ader, his person fits all the criteria for party soldier," Socialist party president Attila Mesterhazy said.

Mr Ader, 52, becomes Hungary's youngest president since the fall of communism in 1989. He is also the first president to take office under Hungary's new constitution, which took effect on January 1.

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