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Historian Asked to Form Hungarian Cabinet

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Newly elected President Arpad Goncz on Thursday asked historian Joszef Antall to form Hungary’s first government of the post-Communist era.

“We are taking the first steps toward creation of a new nation, and Antall is perfectly able to do this,” Goncz said in praise of the man who will be Hungary’s next prime minister.

The selection of Antall was a formality closing the inaugural session of Parliament, which has launched a new age of democracy for this East European nation of 10.5 million.

Antall later told reporters that he expects to have his proposed Cabinet ready for parliamentary endorsement by May 20, after which the first democratic government since the 1940s will take over from the caretaker Socialists.

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Antall, whose center-right Hungarian Democratic Forum won the most votes in free elections held in March and April, said he fully accepts “the weight of responsibility being placed upon me.”

From a pulpit-like podium above the ornate, semi-circular Parliament gallery, the stooped, 58-year-old promised to justify the trust that his nation was placing in him.

“I will try to lead my nation, my country, out of this critical situation,” Antall said, referring to Hungary’s worsening economic problems, including double-digit inflation and a $21-billion foreign debt, the largest per capita in Europe.

Creditors should have confidence in the new Hungary, because it will adhere to all agreements and pay the debts amassed by the former regime, Antall said.

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He said once again that he expects all Soviet troops to pull out of Hungary by next year, as agreed upon with the Kremlin, although he said his nation needs to maintain a “balanced relationship” with the Soviet Union, on which it is heavily dependent for oil and other resources.

Until Antall’s party concludes negotiations with two smaller coalition partners on how the ministries will be distributed, interim Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth, a Socialist, and his Cabinet will continue in office.

Communist reformers such as Nemeth organized the dismantling of the one-party system in Hungary in what has come to be known as the “revolution from above.” But candidates of the Socialist Party, formed after the Communists disbanded in October, won less than 10% of the Parliament’s 386 seats in the elections.

The Forum won about 42%, and its main rival, the Alliance of Free Democrats, earned 24%.

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Antall’s party has put together a governing majority by joining with the conservative Independent Smallholders and the Christian Democrats. Forum figures are expected to control the most important ministries in the new government, such as foreign affairs and economics, while the Smallholders have been promised the agricultural portfolio and a Christian Democrat is to serve as health minister.

Parliament on Wednesday issued a declaration glorifying the 1956 Hungarian Uprising as a “war of independence,” and named Goncz, a member of the opposition Free Democrats, to the ceremonial post of president.


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