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Hungary's prime minister says he "learned the lesson" from leaked speech which led to riots

Hungary's prime minister says he "learned the lesson" from leaked speech which led to riots

Hungary's prime minister said Friday he should have been more forthcoming about the country's economic problems and that he had "learned the lesson" from his leaked speech which led to weeks of protests and sometimes violent riots last year.
In the speech _ made in May to fellow Socialist Party politicians and leaked to Hungarian media in September _ Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany admitted that the government had lied "morning, evening and night" about the economy to win re-election in April.
In a six-page essay titled "Facing Up" and published Friday in the daily newspaper Nepszabadsag, Gyurcsany said he should have made the speech in public, because by not doing so he had "resigned the chance of including the country's citizens ... in the preparation of the necessary solutions."
He said his use of foul language in the speech also led to his intentions being misunderstood.
Over the past few months, the government has been implementing reforms and austerity measures aimed at lowering the massive state budget deficit, which in 2006 was the largest in the European Union at near 10 percent of gross domestic product.
Higher taxes and large cuts in subsidies _ such as state-supported prices for household energy use _ is expected to result in the fall of wages in real terms this year and economists say inflation could exceed an annual rate of 10 percent in the first months of the year.
The cutbacks are also seen lowering Hungary's growth rate to around 2.2-2.6 percent per year in 2007-2008, compared to above 4 percent in the past few years.
In his essay, Gyurcsany said the government may be forced to implement further changes in the budget _ "a different structure" of its revenues _ if the expected short-term decrease in GDP growth proved to be more sustained. He did not provide details.
He also reiterated the government's commitment to reforms and called for more empathy between the left and right wing in Hungary.
While Gyurcsany said he wanted to take a step "in the direction of mutual understanding," he charged Fidesz, the main center-right opposition party, with adopting populist positions and increasingly abandoning democratic norms.
Fidesz, led by former Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has been staging a boycott against Gyurcsany, walking out whenever he speaks in parliament and refusing to attend meetings with him.
Gyurcsany said it was also wrong for Fidesz to "not only tolerate but also justify" the use of "Arpad-Striped" flags at its rallies. The centuries-old Hungarian flags are now widely associated with the Arrow Cross, a pro-Nazi party which briefly ran Hungary toward the end of World War II.
Protests calmed down near the end of the year, but last weekend demonstrators partially blocked roads at more than 110 locations around the county and several hundred people marched to Gyurcsany's home calling for his ouster.
Larger protests are expected as the weather improves in the spring, with their starting point likely around the March 15 national holiday commemorating the 1848-49 revolution against the Habsburgs.
Political commentators said the prime minister spent too much time in his essay criticizing the opposition and did not give enough details of his economic plans.
Commentators also said Gyurcsany's unusual presentation also may have been an effort by the prime minister to take the spotlight away from Orban, who is expected to make a speech on Saturday about social justice at his party's first major event of the year.


Updated : 2021-05-07 19:44 GMT+08:00