Hungary has candidate for premier after crucial nod from opposition

Hungary has candidate for premier after crucial nod from opposition Budapest  - Economy Minister Gordon Bajnai was on course to become Hungary's prime minister on Monday morning when leaders the opposition Free Democrats voted shortly after midnight to back his nomination.

Bajnai was endorsed by the governing Socialist Party on Sunday evening after a lengthy day of debate.

On Sunday evening he held talks until close to midnight with the Free Democrats, whose support the Socialists need.

The leader of the Free Democrats, Gabor Fodor, announced at 1:30 am (1230 GMT) on Monday that his party had voted to back Bajnai.

Bajnai was backed by seven of 12 party leaders and, crucially, had the support of 13 of the opposition party's 19 members of parliament.

Fodor said Bajnai had given assurances that he plans to set up a crisis cabinet with non-party experts in key positions.

He added that Bajnai's policy plans were largely in harmony with those of the Reform Alliance, a group of economists and businessmen that has called for drastic spending and tax cuts to resuscitate Hungary's ailing economy.

Hungary has been at a near standstill politically since March 21 when Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany announced that he would stand aside to make way for an interim government with a new leader.

The governing Socialists are several seats short of a majority, and need the support of their former coalition partners to install a new premier and avoid early general elections. (dpa)