Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is in the Kazakh capital on a two-day official visit, has accepted Rethelyi’s resignation, spokesman Peter Szijjarto said. He added that Rethelyi had already agreed in 2010 to work for a two-year term only.
Lajos Korozs, a senior official of the main opposition Socialists, said Rethelyi should not have been a minister even for these two years, as he, “whilst being a very capable doctor, has no affinity for the areas of which he had been put in charge, namely welfare, education and culture policy”. Korozs added that the welfare sector had been “reduced to rubble”, the administrative system destroyed and while most institutions had been nationalised, funding for them has not increased. As regards Balog’s appointment to succeed Rethelyi, Korozs said “as long as the prime minister’s ideas dictate everywhere, the name of a particular minister is irrelevant.”
Rethelyi, a medical professor who has advised the junior ruling Christian Democrats since 1990, earlier said that he would quit his post at the super-ministry — which covers heath, education, culture, social and sports issues — on his own accord.
Orban thanked Rethelyi for doing an “excellent job” in government in the past two years.
Rethelyi said in his resignation letter that he had fulfilled his duties to the best of his ability, but in the future the ministry would require a leader “who is more actively involved in day-to-day politics”. He added that the ministerial structure with different portfolios worked well in practice.
Balog said he was honoured to be considered for the post. He told MTI that he would disclose his plans for the future at the parliamentary hearing to be held before his formal induction.
Balog, 54, is a minister of the Reformed Church of Hungary, and worked as a minister from 1983 to 1989 before he took a job as a lecturer at the Reformed Church University in Budapest. He also holds a diploma in mental hygiene from the Sports University. He holds various posts in European religious organisations.
Balog worked as an adviser to Fidesz’s parliamentary group from 1990 to 1993 and from 1998 to 2002 he was an adviser on religious matters at the Prime Minister’s Office. A Fidesz lawmaker since 2006, he was deputy parliamentary group leader from 2007 to 2010 whilst serving as chairman of parliament’s committee on human rights, minorities, civil and religious affairs.
Balog is married with five children.