Hungary's prime minister acknowledged as legitimate a recording made in May in which he used foul language and said the government had lied for two years.
© Dudás Szabolcs
At the meeting held a month after the coalition between the Socialist Party and the Alliance of Free Democrats became Hungary's first post-communist government to win re-election, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany told party members that deep reforms were required.
"There is not much choice. There is not, because we screwed up. Not a little, a lot. No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have," Gyurcsany said on the recording. "Evidently, we lied throughout the last year-and-a-half, two years. It was totally clear that what we are saying is not true."
"You cannot quote any significant government measure we can be proud of, other than at the end we managed to bring the government back from the brink. Nothing. If we have to give account to the country about what we did for four years, then what do we say?"
Hungary will hold nationwide municipal elections on October 1, with polls showing the government parties losing ground in many districts to the centre-right opposition, which has been trying to turn the vote into a referendum on the government's performance and reform plans.
Appearing live on local television channel ATV this evening, Gyurcsany accepted the recording as legitimate, but said the lies he referred to in May were about politicians convincing Hungarians they could live comfortably without paying the cost of doing so.
"For years ... we made people believe that they have nothing to do, that we will give them happiness as a gift," Gyurcsany said. "We have to stop the deluge of lies which have covered the country for many years."
In the past several weeks, Gyurcsany has also admitted that to have a better chance to win last April's elections, the government covered up the real size of the state budget deficit and passed a law introducing tax cuts now described by the prime minister as a mistake.
Hungary 's budget gap is now set to reach 10.1 per cent of gross domestic product, compared with the government's pre-election target of 4.7 per cent.
While Gyurcsany earlier pledged to prepare Hungary to meet the economic criteria needed to adopt the euro by 2010, the government's latest plans have no euro target date and analysts say it is unlikely the country can begin using the EU's currency before 2014.
A political analyst said there were many possible explanations about who leaked the recording -- it may have come deliberately from someone close to the prime minister or someone upset by Gyurcsany's recently unveiled intentions to also become head of the Socialist Party.
"This recording can be used to support the government's position that reforms are urgent and inevitable," Zoltan Kiszelly said. "But it may also be an attempt to block Gyurcsany's plan to lead his party as well as the government."