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hvg.hu

We are living through the worst crisis in the history of the Third Republic. Events have clearly caught the political elites by surprise, both in government and in opposition, just as in October 1956, the commemoration of which has just become an even bigger problem for the Government.

This series of demonstrations, which mercifully has not claimed any lives, was unleashed by the 'secret speech' Ferenc Gyurcsany gave to Socialist leaders and MPs on 26 May. The speech was vulgar, astonishingly cynical, and brutally honest. Two points stand out: that in the previous parliamentary cycle "we did nothing," but that in the six months preceding the elections "we lied, morning, evening and night." (The de facto Socialist leader is living under the shadow of the past. Who could forget that self-criticism made in 1956: "We lied morning, at noon, and in the evening. We lied on every wavelength.")

The leaders of the Socialists are now trying to profit from Ferenc Gyurcsany's honesty. Their attempts come too late, especially since the masses now understand that the prime minister did not intend his remarks for them, but for the chosen few, those Socialist members of the political elite, whom he labelled deceitful, tardy and impotent, but only in a private setting.

This is the source of the "moral crisis" of which Laszlo Solyom, the president, spoke in his speech. After winning the election, Gyurcsany could have stood up before the public and said what he did say, if in a more refined way. He could have said that cuts and reforms were unavoidable, and that the problems would go worse if left unaddressed.

Even then it would not have been easy to explain why, if he was so clear about the problems facing Hungarian society and its economy, he did not act as a minister, as a member of the Medgyessy government, and then as a prime minister, even if one who came to power legitimately, but under dubious circumstances.

But the leaked 'secret speech' infuriated the masses, who were already frustrated by budget cuts, by the rationally justified 'mercy killing'

of the 'prematurely born welfare state.' Many voters, many even of those who voted for the Socialists in April, could only feel affection for Ferenc Gyurcsany if he implemented at least some of the popular promises he made in his election campaigns, bringing back something of the welfare and security of the Kadar era. Now he promises to do just the opposite.

Furthermore, the former Young Communist secretary who later became a successful businessman - even if some of that wealth arose from murky dealings - has thus far been the prototypical 'New Left' politician in Eastern Europe. Yet he made the kind of cynical comments that have incited the masses to fury on many occasions throughout history. Think for example of Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake."

It is wholly unsurprising, therefore, that most of the Socialist mandarins would have preferred Peter Kiss to replace Peter Medgyessy in august 2004. They were uneasy about Gyurcsany, but they let themselves be persuaded. The Socialists started with a clean slate, and it worked. They won the parliamentary elections with a greater majority than in 2002. After 18 months of inactivity, Gyurcsany rolled up his sleaves. He raised taxes and social security contributions.

Breaking his promises, he announced he would introduce tuition fees and charges for visiting doctors. He is taking revenue wherever he can find it in order to bring the budget under control and cut away at the national debt, as Brussels has bidden.

Thus far, we have only seen the savings part of the Gyurcsany package.

We have seen less about the reforms, about entering the eurozone, and about all the good that EU accession promised to bring. For society to give the PM a blank check, it must trust him, his party and the governing coalition. But that trust has evaporated. Much of public opinion has deserted the government. The disappointment extends to the regime change of 1989/90, and if this trend continues, fundamental democratic values will be in danger.

Socialist MPs have lined up as one behind their prime minister. They are following the money, it is clear. Viktor Orban is keeping his distance. He supports the protests but is concerned about them running out of control. It seems he has reason to be alarmed. Little good can come of a situation where Laszlo Toroczkai, leader of the 64 Counties revisionist organisation and who was recently kicked out of Bratislava, was the most influential politician on Koztarsasag ter. As police and protesters clashed, Lorand Hegedus gave orders for the bells of the church on Szabadsag ter to be rung. Next to national flags, Arpad flags appeared and the Soviet army memorial was desecrated.

However seductive older Socialists may find it to think Fidesz is behind protests far more violent than those that took place at the time of the regime change, they must start to understand that the problems run deeper. They have to find a politician who is calmer, less irritating, more empathic - but still enthusiastic. Someone whom public opinion would accept as prime minister. But there is no time to lose. Cuts and reforms must be introduced as quickly as possible if we don't want to sink to the bottom of the EU class.

Now we are about to find out if Hungary will develop according to the Latin American or the South European script.

Janos Pelle

hvg.hu English version

Spurned

The reporter who covered the Szabadsag ter demonstrations for rolling news channel HirTV was not allowed into Parliament. Zoltan Rudi, president of Hungarian TV (MTV), had the same TV station's crew escorted out of his channel's press conference. The Free Democrats are demanding an apology, while HirTV is expressing concern that its freedom to inform is being threatened.

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Interview with Andras Lanyi, campaigning eco-politician

Andras Lanyi, the environmentalist writer, philosopher and leader of the Living Chain Hungary movement, played an active role in the lead-up to the regime change of 1989. Yet now he believes that the time since has been more like the twilight of the Kadar era than the dawn of a new democracy. "We cannot look on idly as the capital collapses," begins his manifesto, in which he calls for a cross-party push to create a livable city.

hvg.hu English version

The TV under siege

Some 50 protestors have moved from Kossuth ter to protest in front of the Hungarian Television building. The protestors returned to Kossuth ter for reinforcement, and then returned to break down the building's front door. Police vans arrived at 11.30pm. The police have announced that they were launching an investigation into the attackers and would prevent anybody entering the television headquarters.

hvg.hu English version

Record of Gyurcsanys speech

A hijacker storms into the cockpit and threatens the crew with a gun. He screams that if they don't follow his orders, he'll shoot them. "If you shoot us, who will fly the aeroplane," asks the captain. "I don't think that far ahead," the pirate replies.

hvg.hu English version

Text message: There will be violence

Information gatherers from the company that provides security to a number of high-risk public institutions including Hungarian TV (MTV) were also among last night's crowds. Security company In-Kal's investigators warned the TV headquarters' security service in good time of the approaching violence, hvg.hu has learned. Thanks to the company, police were aware of the protesters' intentions before the siege began. Despite this, they did not move more officers into place.

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