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Second night of Budapest violence

BBC | September 20 2006

Police and demonstrators have clashed for a second night in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, amid calls for Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany to resign.

Police on horseback charged a group of protesters who were attempting to reach the governing Socialist Party's HQ.

Several people were injured in the clashes, which followed a 10,000-strong peaceful protest outside parliament.

The two days of protests were sparked by a leaked tape in which Mr Gyurcsany admitted lying to win re-election.

About 1,000 protesters broke away from Tuesday evening's peaceful demonstration in front of the parliament building and tried to reach Republic Square, the BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest reports.

One group appears to have reached the square, while riot police prevented others getting there.

Clashes broke out near Blaha Lujza square, a main traffic junction.

Riot police have blocked off many streets in the city centre, including the public radio building, and a tense stand-off exists in several places, our correspondent says.

Earlier on Tuesday, parliament approved a declaration condemning the violence which had occurred in the capital the night before.

'Darkest night'

Mr Gyurcsany said Monday's protests, in which dozens of people were hurt, were Hungary's "longest and darkest night" since the end of communism in 1989.

Officials said 150 people were injured - 102 of them police officers - after a group of protesters left a largely peaceful demonstration near parliament and went to state TV headquarters.

According to reports, they wanted a petition to be read out on air, and when refused, attacked the building.

Police were forced to withdraw before returning to expel the protesters.

Mr Gyurcsany promised to crack down on any repeat of Monday night's violence.

He made a series of comments to the media declaring his intention to stay on as prime minister and continue reforms begun after April's general election.

His own Socialist Party, and the junior party in the governing coalition, have so far stood behind him.

The socialists and their liberal coalition allies are trailing the conservative opposition party Fidesz in the polls.

Fiscal hole

Mr Gyurcsany's comments which sparked the protests were made at a taped meeting he held with his MPs a few weeks after April's election, and leaked to media on Sunday.

In excerpts broadcast on state radio, Mr Gyurcsany candidly admitted his government had accomplished "nothing" and had been lying for "the last year-and-a-half to two years".

"We lied morning, noon and night," he said in a speech punctuated by obscenities.

Mr Gyurcsany won the elections on a platform of tax cuts, but has since proposed tax increases to deal with a huge budget deficit.

Protests had already been planned this week over the austerity measures.

The European Union has urged the government to press on with its efforts to mend public finances.

Spokeswoman Amelia Torres told reporters in Brussels that it was in the interests of Hungary that the economic situation should be "brought to relatively sustainable levels".


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