Street riots and anti-government demonstrations have overshadowed the 50th anniversary of Hungary's 1956 Revolution against Soviet rule. The arrival of presidents, prime ministers and royals from different countries did not ease tensions.
Riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters near the parliament building. Hungarian demonstrators even gained control of a Soviet-era tank which had been parked in Budapest as part of the 50th anniversary commemorations of the 1956 Revolution against Soviet rule. Dozens of people were injured in the fighting.
The protesters are angry because, they say, Communists have returned to power. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany was leader of the Communist youth movement. The demonstrators are
also furious that he has admitted to lying about the dire economic situation of the country in order to win re-election this year.
Hungary's main right-wing opposition party Fidesz boycotted official ceremonies Monday, holding instead its own rally that drew as many as 100,000 people. Among them, Wilfried Martens, president of the European People's Party, the largest within the European Union. He told the crowd that only Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany is responsible for the current tensions in Hungary.
"The present Hungarian upheaval is caused by one man," said Wilfried Martens.
The opposition rally, combined with the riots, overshadowed government events designed to mark the anniversary of the failed revolt that sealed Hungary's fate as a Soviet satellite state until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.
In front of the Hungarian parliament building, the Socialist-led government tried to hold commemorations with dignitaries, including presidents, prime ministers and royals.
As riot police looked on, a military band tried to outdo those shouting slogans against the government. Officials from around the world placed white roses at the foot of a marble monument commemorating those who died in the failed revolution.
The fight for freedom, democracy and independence from the Soviet Union began October 23, but after initial optimism, the revolt was crushed by Russian troops less than two weeks later.
Speaking inside the parliament building, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso suggested to reporters he realized the anniversary came amid Hungary's largest political crisis since the collapse of Communism. However, he said he believes the political parties can overcome the difficulties.
"I have great confidence in the democracy in Hungary," said Jose Manuel Barroso. "We have democratic institutions and as I said in my speech in a democracy there is not a single problem for which we cannot find a political solution."
Barosso said he could not agree with the view that the goals of the revolution remain unrealized. He said although the revolt was crushed, it helped create a movement that enabled Europe to eventually be united in peace, freedom and democracy.