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Hungary Premier Orban Nominates Schmitt for President

June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Pal Schmitt, a two-time Olympic champion and the speaker of Hungary’s parliament since last month, was nominated to become the country’s next president by Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Schmitt, 68, is set to succeed Laszlo Solyom as the country’s fourth president since Hungary’s transition from communism to democracy 20 years ago. Orban’s spokesman Peter Szijjarto announced the nomination. The premier’s backing assures Schmitt, who has been a leading sports administration official since communist times, will be elected on June 29.

The prime minister’s Fidesz party swept to power in April elections, winning an unprecedented two-thirds majority in the legislature, which gives it enough votes to pass all appointments and rewrite the Constitution. Orban, who is trying to oust central bank President Andras Simor, is wrestling control of institutions and government agencies less than a month after taking office.

“Putting one of the Fidesz leaders in the presidential seat will concentrate all executive power in the hands of the party,” Magdalena Polan, a London-based analyst at Goldman Sachs Inc., wrote in a note to clients today.

Hungary’s prime minister has the bulk of executive power, while the president’s role is largely ceremonial. Responsibilities include signing bills into law, with the option of sending legislation back to lawmakers for reconsideration or to the Constitutional Court for a legal probe. Solyom’s five-year term expires on August.

Olympian, Official

Schmitt, who won Olympic gold medals in fencing in 1968 and 1972, was a deputy chairman of Fidesz from 2003 to 2007 and a vice president of the European Parliament from July 2009 to May 2010. He has headed the Hungarian Olympic Committee since 1990 and was vice president of the International Olympic Committee from 1995 to 1999. He was a deputy state secretary for sports under communism from 1981 to 1990.

Fidesz nominated Laszlo Domokos, one of its parliamentary deputies, to head the independent State Audit Office. Solyom this week sent back to lawmakers a proposal that would have allowed the ruling party to hand-pick Constitutional Court justices.

Fidesz plans to replace Adam Farkas, the president of the financial regulator Pszaf, by the autumn, Magyar Hirlap reported today without citing anyone. Orban is also trying to oust Simor, who has dismissed calls for his resignation, saying it was his “constitutional duty” to serve out his term until 2013.

Schmitt’s appointment will “help Fidesz in its attempts to control” the central bank, “which would be a negative development for the institution,” Goldman’s Polan said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zoltan Simon in Budapest at zsimon@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Willy Morris at wmorris@bloomberg.net

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