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Hungary's prime minister wins vote of confidence in parliament; 80,000 protest outside parliament

Hungary's prime minister wins vote of confidence in parliament; 80,000 protest outside parliament

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, whose admission that he lied to the country about the economy led to huge protests, won a vote of confidence in parliament on Friday.
The result, however, did not deter an estimated 80,000 from protesting outside parliament and calling for his resignation. The rally was staged by the largest center-right opposition group.
The parliamentary motion in support of Gyurcsany passed by 207 to 165. The prime minister needed 193 votes to win.
Gyurcsany _ whose Socialist-led coalition suffered large setbacks in Sunday's nationwide municipal elections _ requested Friday's vote of confidence to reinforce political support for his austerity package and the transformation of the country's inefficient public sector.
Speaking ahead of Friday's vote, Gyurcsany said he had not been courageous enough to confront economic realities before April's general elections, and promised not repeat mistakes of the past.
"The past months and years hold too many lessons," he said. "There are reasons to change."
But the prime minister insisted he did not deliberately mislead the country.
"I must reject accusations that the first Gyurcsany government falsified data, that it knowingly misled or deceived the people," he said.
Hungarians have been protesting against the prime minister since Sept. 17, when Gyurcsany was heard, in a leaked recording, admitting that the government lied about the economy to win April's general elections.
Two nights of rioting, including an attack on state television headquarters, left some 150 police and dozens of participants injured.
In a May speech to Socialist lawmakers, Gyurcsany said his first government _ the first to win re-election in post-communist Hungary _ "lied throughout the last year and a half, two years."
"It was totally clear that what we are saying is not true. ... And at the same time, we did nothing for four years. Nothing," Gyurcsany said May 26 at the closed meeting. "Instead, we lied morning, evening and night. I don't want to do it anymore."
But on Friday, the prime minister said the lies he had been referring to were about unsustainable policies implemented by Hungary since 2001 that led to a false sense of security and created illusions about the stability of the economy.
"Maybe we have to apologize because we allowed appearances to be maintained; what is more, we ourselves sustained the illusion that higher, larger incomes could be accomplished without better achievement," Gyurcsany said.
"I did not have the courage to tell the voters to their eyes that everything I did, everything we did, everything that many, many people in Hungary did and believed in for the past years, was based partly on self-deception, partly on lack of valor," he said.
In the last few months, Gyurcsany's government has started implementing austerity measures and some reforms aimed at lowering the state budget deficit, which at over 10 percent of gross domestic product is the largest in the European Union.
Gyurcsany said the austerity and reforms would have negative effects next year before leading to improvements.
"In 2007, the purchasing power of averages incomes will fall by around 2-3 percent, wages by an even higher proportion," he said, adding he expected more balance in 2008 and that wages and development would again increase from 2009.
"As a consequence of reforms in the health sector and education, disorders in the public sector, the constant lack of funds and the troubles stemming from it will significantly fall, in places disappear, " Gyurcsany said. "The quality of public services will improve."
But even as parliament voted on the prime minister, thousands of people were gathering on Kossuth Square just outside the building, demanding Gyurcsany's dismissal.
The Fidesz party _ led by former premier Viktor Orban _ called on supporters to bring alarm clocks to the rally, a symbolic wake-up call for the ruling coalition to fire the prime minister.
"The prime minister does not listen to the people, the people do not and will not listen the prime minister," Orban told a crowd estimated at 80,000 by state news wire MTI. "The consequences are difficult to foresee."
Orban said his party was not seeking early elections, but would continue its Kossuth Square protest until the coalition replaced Gyurcsany, claiming Hungary's economic crisis would continue to deepen as long as he was power.
"We will be here every day," Orban said, standing on the steps of parliament building's main entrance. "We have to do this even though we know it may be difficult and take a long time."


Updated : 2021-03-05 18:03 GMT+08:00