BUDAPEST The leadership of Hungary's ruling Fidesz party has backed Janos Ader, one of its deputies in the European Parliament, as its candidate for president, the national news agency MTI said on Friday, citing unnamed sources.
If Ader accepts, he will almost certainly replace Pal Schmitt, who quit this month after a plagiarism scandal, as the post is chosen by parliament, which is dominated by Fidesz.
A former parliament speaker and former head of Fidesz's parliamentary group, Ader has been described as a steadfast, trustworthy and reserved career politician, whose loyalty to Fidesz and Prime Minister Viktor Orban is beyond doubt.
The leadership of Fidesz, including Orban, who is also the party president, backed Ader's candidacy at a meeting on Friday, according to MTI. MTI also said Ader had accepted the candidacy, but website hvg.hu said this has not yet happened.
Fidesz was not immediately available for comment.
Analysts have said Schmitt's resignation undermined the role of the president and may have tarnished Fidesz' public support, so the new president will have an important role in restoring prestige to the post.
Ader, 52, is a lawyer who has held key posts in the party and has been close to Orban since Fidesz' early days in 1988.
Orban will formally name a candidate on Monday to his party's parliamentary group. Parliament is then expected to elect the new president later this month.
Orban said earlier the country now needed a president who exuded a sense of security in turbulent times.
"My idea about the president is that a person who provides a sense of security would be needed (for the post)," Orban told public Kossuth radio on Friday.
"I think Ader would meet the conditions, which Orban is said to have outlined earlier this month that the new president should be a party politician and loyal to Fidesz," said Attila Juhasz, an analyst at think tank Political Capital.
Analysts have said Orban, whose Fidesz party holds a two-thirds parliamentary majority, will pick a party loyalist again and will not heed opposition calls for an independent president.
The next head of state will hold the post until 2017, well after the next parliament elections in 2014.
The transition is not expected to have any impact on the government's political agenda.
The president's post is to a great extent ceremonial, but also has some important political powers, and based on Hungary's constitution, the president embodies "the nation's unity and safeguards the democratic operation of the state".
The president may dissolve parliament under certain conditions, and has the right to send back laws to parliament or to the country's top constitutional court if he believes the legislation may be unconstitutional.
"There won't be a change in the sense that the new president who takes over the post will not exercise control over the government ... he will not be an obstacle to the legislative actions of the ruling two-thirds' majority," Juhasz added.
Schmitt, an Olympic fencing gold medalist and Fidesz loyalist, stepped down after a Budapest university stripped him of his 1992 doctorate saying it did not meet scientific and ethical standards.
(Reporting by Sandor Peto; Editing by Alison Williams)