2006-09-22 Cristina Tiberian
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Why is there discontent in Hungary?

Hungarian Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany is seen during an extraordinary meeting to inform parliamentary leaders about the current sitiation in Budapest, Hungary, on ThursdayHungarian Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany is seen during an extraordinary meeting to inform parliamentary leaders about the current sitiation in Budapest, Hungary, on Thursday
What did Hungary’s socialist Prime Minister say exactly ? His leaked comments have sparked off the Budapest riots, but are there other reasons for discontent in Hungary? Radio Romania International has the answers.

“We did not do anything for four years. Nothing. We have obviously been lying for a year and a half now. It is perfectly clear that what we were saying was not true.”

This is an excerpt from the famous, or rather, infamous speech that has made the headlines of most European media this week. Prime Minister Ferencz Gyurcsany delivered it at a Socialist Party meeting back in May. He says it was meant to convince his party members of the need for major economic reform. But the tape leaked and was posted on the web site of the Hungarian Radio, sparking protests on the streets of Hungary’s capital Budapest.

Demonstrators gathered outside the parliament building and demanded Prime Minister Gyurcsany to step down. The irrefutable evidence of his lies coupled with his tough budget reforms have angered Hungarians who are struggling to cope with tax increases, layoffs and rising energy prices.

A man passes by burnt out cars in front of the Hungarian State Television building in Budapest, Hungary, on TuesdayA man passes by burnt out cars in front of the Hungarian State Television building in Budapest, Hungary, on Tuesday
“It’s very hard to live on a small income while politicians in Parliament are earning millions. I live on the equivalent of 300 euros a month with my son who is unemployed. I have to be very careful with every cent I spend.”

“I am here demonstrating because even today it’s still the communists who are ruling the country. People are disappointed and embittered, a third of the residents are unemployed, retired or alcoholic.”

Tension boiled over as a group of hardcore protesters broke away from the main demonstration clashing violently with the riot police. Scores of people were arrested as the violence escalated, and many were injured. Hungarian political analyst Zoltan Kiszelly says a right wing minority is to blame.

A symbolic coffin for Ference Gyurcsány's government in front of the Parliament buildingA symbolic coffin for Ference Gyurcsány's government in front of the Parliament building
“The situation can be divided into two parts: on the one hand, that is the major part, we have a peaceful protest against the government. And there is a minority of the protest - violent people use the peaceful protest to fight against the police.”

Hungary’s estimated budget deficit for this year stands at 10.1% of the GDP, the highest in the European Union and far from the 3% the country needs in order to adopt the Euro. Gyurcsany’s Socialist-Liberal coalition won general elections in April this year and was the first government to be re-elected since the fall of communism in 1989. The cabinet leader is now vowing to continue reforms in order to rein in the skyrocketing deficit. Despite growing pressure from both protesters and the political opposition, the Prime Minister said he would not step down. But with local elections due on October the 1st, the leaked tape scandal couldn’t have come at a worse time. Gyurcsany is still backed by his Socialist – Liberal coalition but that might change should voters turn against them at the polls. It may not be long before the Prime Minister sees just how far a lie can take him.

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