September 19, 2006

Riots in Budapest demand government's resignation

Clashes have broken out in Budapest after the ‘Socialist’ Hungarian Prime Minister broke convention and admitted lying to get elected.

Thousands of mostly young protesters filled the streets to demand Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany’s resignation, after a tape was leaked in which he admitted "we lied in the morning, we lied in the evening" to get elected. A government minister confessed "the people are angry at a political leader who, for the first time, is telling the truth: that the whole political class was lying." The trouble began when riot police prevented demonstrators from handing in a petition at the state television building, causing protesters to storm, loot and set fire to the building, in a catalyst reminiscent of the clashes at the Budapest radio station in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. One protester said "tomorrow, twice as many people will come ... Nothing like this has happened since 1956." There are reports of 50 protesters injured amongst the tear gas and water cannon. A number of smaller protests also took place across the country.

There were many national flags on display amongst the demonstrators, and a memorial to ‘liberating’ Soviet troops in WWII was vandalised. Despite the comparisons to the ‘56 revolution and the chanting of ‘56!, 56!’ in the streets, the media are keen to portray those in the streets as right wing for their opposition to the ‘Socialist’ government, attacks on pro-Soviet monuments and the presence of national flags. Reuters reports that “at least some of the protesters [among 100,000] … were from fringe right-wing parties.” They quoted a member of a far-right group (too small to show up any information in a Google search) saying the protests were nationalist and against “foreign capital”, which seems out of keeping with the general anti-government mood in the streets. Politicians are talking about “an unprecedented crisis in Hungarian democracy” in the face of the first major street clashes since the collapse of the old Communist regime in 1989. The Prime Minister was quoted saying “the street is not a solution, but instead causes conflict and crisis”. As ‘politics’ overspills its proper place contained in the walls of parliament, the question is now whether the protests will grow and further dwarf the far-right elements, or simply continue as they are and act as an extra-parliamentary support for the main centre-right opposition party.

UPDATE: The Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has vowed to use police to crack down on protests as a small crowd begins to gather outside parliament demanding his resignation. The Hungarian National Security Cabinet met on Tuesday morning (19/09/06) to discuss the situation and the chief of police has offered to resign over the violence, which left 150 people injured on Monday night. 102 of the injured were police, who were attacked with cobblestones and bottles.


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