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Thousands Demand Resignation of Hungarian Prime Minister


Tens-of-thousands of Hungarians rallied Saturday and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany in the largest anti-government demonstration so far. The protest comes nearly a week after a tape recording was leaked in which the prime minister admits he lied about the economy.

Angry protestors, many waving Hungarian flags, shouted slogans against Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, who they say betrayed their country by lying to the voters. In a speech recorded at a closed party meeting that was leaked to Hungarian radio, Mr. Gyurcsany can be heard telling colleagues that he and his Socialist-led government "lied morning, evening and night" about the economy.

Saturday's protests took place in front of the parliament building in Budapest. Riot police blockaded the parliament building in an attempt to prevent the protest from escalating into violent street riots like the ones that took place earlier in the week in which more than 250 people were injured and hundreds were arrested.

Among the speakers at Saturday's protests was Imre Pozsgay, a former Minister of State in the old Communist government who played a role in the transformation to democracy in 1989.

He says the majority of Hungarians have enough of lies. Speaking of the Socialist-led government, he adds, "they wanted to take away our self-respect, so let's restore it. That's why we are here."

Pal Schmitt, a member of the European Parliament from Hungary's center-right opposition party, Fidesz, told demonstrators that the prime minister has caused a moral crisis in his country.

He says the upcoming municipal elections on October 1 will be a referendum on the government's performance. He says they will be an opportunity for the left and right wing to in his words "declare their belief in justice sincerity, peace, quiet and Hungary's development."

Yet independent public opinion polls show that a slight majority of Hungarians do not want Prime Minister Gyurcsany to resign. Mr. Gyurcsany himself has told reporters he made his remarks about lying to provoke a discussion and to encourage Hungary's political establishment to stop what he calls years of "political deception."

He said earlier Saturday, that he will close his Socialist party headquarters. It has been the focus of many of the protests, both violent and non-violent, this past week.

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