WORLD : Hungarian Opposition Parties Win 1st Free Vote in 4 Decades

From Times Wire Services

The ruling party said today that the opposition has won the first free vote in four decades, on a referendum postponing presidential elections to give the fledgling movement more time to organize and become better known.

Final results were not expected until Tuesday, but the presidential candidate of the ruling Socialist Party, formerly the Communist Party, conceded that voters on Sunday approved the referendum backed by opposition parties.

"We can be certain that the number of 'yes' votes was higher than the 'no' votes," said Imre Pozsgay, the popular Socialist candidate.

The results mean that a new democratic Parliament, to be chosen by June, will elect the president of the new Hungarian republic. If voters had rejected the referendum, they would have elected a president directly on Jan. 7.

Opposition groups favored postponing the vote until after parliamentary elections, saying that otherwise they could not sufficiently organize a serious challenge to Pozsgay. They hope to win strong representation in the new Parliament, giving their candidate a better chance at the presidency.

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