BUDAPEST Hungary's opposition Free Democrats (SZDSZ) said on Wednesday that former central bank Governor Gyorgy Suranyi was acceptable to them as a candidate to replace outgoing Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.
The ruling Socialists, who have a minority in parliament, are seeking agreement with opposition parties, mainly the Free Democrats and the Democratic Forum (MDF), about a new leader and programme to lead Hungary out of its worst recession since the early 1990s.
The Socialists on Tuesday proposed three candidates for prime minister: Suranyi, former head of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Ferenc Glatz, and Andras Vertes, head of the GKI economic research institute.
"I would like to make it clear that out of the three candidates Gyorgy Suranyi is acceptable for us," Free Democrat party president Gabor Fodor told public radio MR1.
He said there were question marks surrounding the other two candidates, but SZDSZ has not made its final decision yet.
"The candidates have to meet two important criteria. On the one hand to restore confidence in the government and politics at home and abroad," Fodor said.
"The candidate will also have to make it clear that he will be able to operate free of ... political pressure and he will firmly make the decisions related to crisis management."
The Socialists want opposition backing to pass a no-confidence vote in Gyurcsany and approve the new prime minister next month, thus avoiding holding an election which the main opposition party Fidesz, well ahead in the opinion polls, would likely win.
Hungary had to take a $25.1 billion IMF-led rescue package last October to avert financial meltdown. It needs to make further spending cuts and launch reforms as soon as possible to put the economy back on a sustainable track.
Analysts said Suranyi, 55, regional head of Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and twice governor of the central bank in the 1990s, would be a good choice to tackle economic problems.
SURANYI SEEKS BROAD SUPPORT
Suranyi said on Wednesday he wanted to seek support from all parliamentary parties because that was the only way a new government under his leadership could work.
"It is a great honour that my name came up. The decision is not in my hands," Suranyi told Reuters. "Such a setup can work only if all parliamentary parties -- even if not to the same extent -- support such a solution," he added.
The biggest opposition party Fidesz wants an early election.
Its leader Viktor Orban met Suranyi on Monday and told him Fidesz would not support a new government whoever was prime minister, Fidesz spokesman Peter Szijjarto was reported as saying by the local news agency MTI.
Fidesz could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Vertes, 57, one of the two other candidates said he wanted an agreement on a programme before he decides about the PM job.
"If there is an agreement on a programme then I will be able to decide whether I accept (the nomination) or not," Vertes told a news conference.
"The interests of the country would dictate a comprehensive political consensus as to what should be done. However, for the time being I do not see a chance for this," he added.