Thu, Sep 21, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Hungarian ruler promises crackdown on protesters

AFP , BUDAPEST

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany vowed yesterday to crack down on anti-government protests after a second night of riots, pledging to stay the course and push through tough economic reforms.

"We will have no patience with them," Gyurcsany told a Cabinet meeting, after hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police in Budapest for the second night running, calling on him to resign.

"The government will hold firm on the only track possible: the policies of reform to ensure development and economic stability," the socialist leader told the meeting, which was open to the press.

The opposition Fidesz Party has also added its voice to the calls for Gyurcsany to resign after he admitted -- on a leaked recording -- repeatedly lying to the country over the state of the economy in order to win re-election.

Police used tear gas and water cannons early yesterday to disperse the protesters, who hurled bottles and other objects at the security forces and set fire to a police car and garbage cans.

The clashes left dozens of people injured and 100 under arrest, and came after more than 10,000 people demonstrated peacefully outside parliament late on Tuesday.

The demonstrators called on Gyurcsany to quit after public radio broadcast the recording of a closed-door talk between Gyurcsany and his deputies in May, after he had won the April general elections.

On the tape, Gyurcsany admitted that he had "lied morning, night and evening" for the past 18 months to win re-election knowing he could not deliver on his promises.

In a passionate speech peppered with the expletives and blunt talk for which he is well known, the charismatic 44-year-old admitted "we screwed up."

"Not a little, big time. No country in Europe has committed blunders like we have. There is an explanation for this. We obviously lied our way through the past one-and-a-half to two years," he said.

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