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

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

An estimated 80,000 people protested outside parliament Friday, calling for Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany to resign even though he survived a confidence vote.
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.
Friday's demonstration was about twice the size of the largest protests of the past three weeks. It was organized by main center-right opposition group, Fidesz.
Two nights of rioting two weeks ago, including an attack on state television headquarters, left some 150 police and dozens of participants injured.
Gyurcsany asked for Friday's confidence vote as a show of political support for his planned austerity measures and reforms of the inefficient public sector. It was widely expected that he would survive because the Socialist-led coalition holds 210 seats in the 386-seat legislature.
Needing 193 votes to win, the parliamentary motion in support of Gyurcsany passed 207-165.
Speaking before the 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.
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 attained without better achievement," Gyurcsany said.
"Yes, in this sense we eluded the facts, we were timid and we tried to avoid the straightest, most simple answers," he said. "If there's anything to apologize for, this is it. Sorry."
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 EU.
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.
"Wage growth in the past years ... substantially exceeded the level of growth of the economy," Gyurcsany said. "This (balance) can be restored only in one way _ we have to stop for one year."
But even as parliament voted on the prime minister, thousands of people gathered on Kossuth Square just outside the building, demanding Gyurcsany's dismissal.
State-news agency MTI reported that 80,000 people were at the demonstration.
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 said. "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 deepen as long as he was in 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 : 2021-03-06 23:02 GMT+08:00