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From mid-November, Mihály Bihari, a former nominee for President of the Republic, will head the Constiutional Court. There are hopes that the appointment of Bihari, who once taught numerous opposition politicians, will bring an end to the stalemate over future court nominations.

Bihari is not the most senior judge, and nor is he the most popular candidate, but he is now certain to to succeed András Holló as the fourth president of the Constitutional Court.

The president has been a member of three parties - the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, the Hungarian Democratic Forum and the Hungarian Social Democratic Party. He was even sat on the Socialist benches in Parliament between 1994 and 1998. But despite this, Bihari remains a figure of consensus, accepted as an authentic figure by every political camp. That he was not elected president of the republic was not the fault of the right-wing, nor of the Free Democrats. The 62-year-old judge, who has taught generations of law students in Pécs, would almost certainly be settling in in the Sándor Palace by now if the Socialists had followed the popular left wing of their party in proposing him as an alternative to Katalin Szili. His six years on the Constitutional Court have been characterised by a willingness to find compromises between two extremes. He is also a genuine self-made man. Gyula Horn is the only other senior figure in the Third Republic to have had a career that was not an effortless rise through the ranks. His parents were tram ticket inspectors, and he originally trained as an upholsterer in a small factory in Budapest's Józsefváros, a district which still has a reputation for being rough. He gained his school-leaving certificate at the age of 23, after years of night school.

And what of the previous Court? The body that András Holló headed is regarded with mixed feelings, both by the experts and by the wider public. The third Court had to work under a continuous impasse. The parliamentary parties' inability to agree on Court nominations meant that the number of judges fell from 11, the numbers specified by the Constitution, to only eight earlier this year, as as judges retired or resigned from the body. And opinion polls have shown a continuous decline in public confidence in the Court, even though it worked to an ever faster tempo.
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HUF 336billion?

In the worse case, the government will have to repay HUF336bn to National Motorway Rt., but it is trying to withhold some HUF100bn of this.

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Shoddy workmanship

"Building a home is an art," says one of the leading property investors. And it would seem to be a popular art form, given that there have never been so many new homes to choose from on the market. An estimated 10-11,000 apartments are on sale in Budapest. But with growing supply, ever more buyers are complaining of poor quality.

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Opinion

"Businessmen should stick to business," said Viktor Orban at a village party meeting, and though he didn't say it explicitly, the second sentence was implicit: "...and not govern." This view of leadership is thought-provoking. Because it disqualifies people in certain professions or jobs from taking part in public affairs. Which begs the question: who is suited to run the country?

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"Third way" platform

There will be a new party to vote for come 2006. The Hungarian Truth and Life Party (MIÉP), the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) will campaign on a joint platform, MIÉP-Jobbik Third Way. István Csurka's new electoral alliance could take votes away from Fidesz.

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Unconstitutional?

It will be left to the next parliament to modify the agents' law it voted for in May, after the Constitutional Court ruled parts of it unconstitutional. Despite this, there will be plenty of talk of former agents in the coming election campaign.

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