- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 23, 2006

BUDAPEST — Tens of thousands of people rallied peacefully yesterday in the biggest demonstration so far against Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany over his admission that he lied to the electorate.

An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 demonstrators calling for Mr. Gyurcsany’s resignation had gathered by 9 p.m. outside the huge neo-Gothic parliament, where protests have been held for the past week.

There was no repeat of the violence that marred earlier rallies and put riot police on full alert.

Mr. Gyurcsany was unmoved, saying he would stay in power and pledging to implement the painful tax increases and spending cuts that have caused his government’s popularity to plummet to 25 percent in recent polls from 40 percent at April’s election.

“I will continue on, because I still have much to do here,” Mr. Gyurcsany told the German magazine Focus in an interview published yesterday.

Remarks by Mr. Gyurcsany that his party had lied “in the morning and in the evening” to win re-election in April and that his last government had mismanaged the economy triggered the protests.

Demonstrators carrying Hungarian flags and singing patriotic songs said they would stay the course in hoping they could eventually force out the 45-year-old millionaire Socialist.

“I am sure that we will succeed; if not now, then in October or November. We must go on, that’s the future and without that, there is no future,” said Geza, who described himself as a Budapest entrepreneur, but did not give his surname.

The turmoil in Budapest coincides with a political shake-up in Poland and the Czechs’ failure to form a new government more than three months after an election, raising investors’ concerns about political instability in Central Europe.

The demonstrations have also widened the bitter division between the governing left and the conservative opposition, each accusing the other of fomenting violence to win ground ahead of local elections on Oct. 1.

Thousands of supporters of Fidesz, the main opposition party, which canceled its own rally because of fear of violence, were among those gathering in the square. Party leaders reiterated earlier calls for Mr. Gyurcsany to quit.

Fidesz Deputy President Pal Schmitt, in a brief speech outside parliament, asked the crowd to wear white clothes and white armbands to show they reject violence, and about half the crowd was wearing some white clothing.

Fidesz leader Viktor Orban told private InfoRadio that Mr. Gyurcsany had broken the law. “We are dealing with a chronic liar, that’s clear,” he said.

Despite the turmoil, Mr. Gyurcsany has won his party’s backing for a package of budget cuts to rein in a huge deficit, which has surged to 10.1 percent of gross domestic product after four years of overspending.

Until recently, Mr. Gyurcsany party had managed to keep the deficit hidden.

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