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The one-time green activist László Sólyom (63) is still opposed to the consumer society and is still a believer in showing responsibility for future generations. The head of state, who took up his new job last Friday, has little room for manoeuvre, since it was the Constitutional Court over which he then presided that tied the president's hands.

HVG: A few months ago Protect the Future, which nominated you as a presidential candidate, was sticking up posters saying "Politics can be different" on various statues around Budapest. What kind of changes would you like to see over the next five years?

LS: The line you quoted is more radical than it seems at first sight. In Hungary, politics has been reduced to simple party politics. But the classical meaning of politics is participation in public affairs - and that's the definition we have to get back to. I must emphasise that I am not opposed to the parties. Rather, I'm opposed to the parties' monopoly on politics. The continuous decline in the number of parliamentary parties makes it even more important that other actors be heard. Up until now, only big organisations, professional groups and trade unions have had this option. Even as a constitutional court judge I tried to narrow down these organisations' roles, because there are areas in which they wield public authority. But the other political sphere could be made up of civil society organisations like environmental groups.

HVG: But if it's this that drives you, then it's hard to understand why you want to be a passive, taciturn president.

LS: There's no question of me not wanting to play an appropriately weighty role in public life: the president will be visible at the right times. But the president's influence is not determined by the number of protocol events he turns up at or by how many times he speaks to the press. Actually, if he talks all the time people will stop paying attention. I think one of my first big tests will be whether I can avoid exchanging my position above party politics for small change. And that goes both way: parties or the press can ask in vain for me to give my view - I'm not going to let it happen. I'm going to guard my autonomy. I know what I want, and that's going to guide everything I do.

HVG: What kind of changes will there be in the first weeks?

LS: Many people are expecting there to be a sudden new presidential style. But I don't want to just come up with a load of new programmes. I'll behave just as I did as president of the Constitutional Court. There it was always particular occasions that inspired answers which in some cases took on a symbolic meaning and which had an impact on the whole of public life. I didn't sit down on the judge's bench on January 1, 2000 and say "Now let's bring about a rule of law revolution." It only became clear a year later, when the ideals and beliefs I already had inside me took more concrete form. So the answers will take shape in response to concrete challenges.

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