Police and protesters clash in Hungary Monday, Mar 17 2008 

Hungarian police have fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of protesters who responded with Molotov cocktails and stones following a right-wing rally as Hungary commemorated the 1848 revolution against the Austrian Habsburgs.

Trouble broke out following the rally and rock concert in downtown Budapest when Gyorgy Budahazy, one of the ringleaders of anti-government riots in September 2006, called on supporters to march on a building where Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany was giving a speech.

Several hundred protesters, many of them youths wearing masks, headed in the direction of the building, reportedly beating photographers and cameramen along the way.

Riot police then confronted the protesters, facing a rain of stones and Molotov cocktails as they attempted to disperse them.

By late evening, at least 15 people had been arrested and two police officers injured.

Tensions had been raised by a referendum, held last Sunday, in which Hungarians overwhelmingly voted to cancel fees for medical treatment and higher education.

The fees were part of economic reforms aimed at cutting the budget deficit and eventually allowing Hungary to adopt the euro.

Centre-right opposition party Fidesz had billed the referendum as a judgement on an unpopular government and its economic reforms, but has refrained from repeating earlier calls for the government to resign should it lose the referendum.

An official late afternoon rally organised by Fidesz in downtown Budapest passed off peacefully, with tens of thousands heading off after listening to party leader Viktor Orban speak.

However, right-wing groups that have been involved in anti-government rioting over the last 18 months fulfilled expectations that they would use the referendum result to call for Gyurcsany to go and potentially renew street violence.

Police cordoned off parliament and also maintained a heavy presence at many of the official events commemorating the revolution.

Nonetheless, earlier in the day, protesters targeted Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky, a member of junior coalition party the Alliance of Free Democrats, with eggs and stones as part of demonstrations against the hugely unpopular government.

The trouble was the latest flare-up in 18 months of on-off anti-government protests and violence.

© 2008 AAP




Hungary protests turn violent Monday, Mar 17 2008 

Hundreds of anti-government protesters have clashed with the police in Hungary, as they proceeded to disrupt commemorations of the failed 1848 war of independence against the Habsburgs monarchy.At least 21 people were detained, three police officers were lightly injured and a number of police vehicles were hit by the molotov cocktails and stones thrown by the protesters on Saturday.

The protesters, mostly members of the Hungarian Self Defense Movement, were on the way to the Palace of Art, where Ferenc Gyurcsany, the prime minister, was participating in a commemoration event.

The police fired tear gas and dispersed the protesters, before they could reach the venue.

The Hungarian media reported that protesters also attacked a journalist covering the violence and that the clothes of two demonstrators caught fire, after being hit with a Molotov cocktail, that was aimed at police.

Police set up metal barriers around the Hungarian parliament and several other areas where official events were being held.

Unpopular PM


Peter Rabai, a 53-year-old Hungarian salesman attending one of the rallies, said: “The government has to go. They are ruining Hungary.”

Demands for Gyurcsany’s resignation intensified after Hungarians repealed three of his economic reform measures in a referendum held by Fidesz, the main opposition party.

Viktor Orban, the former prime minister of Hungary, said: Since the referendum, we know that Hungary deserves better.”Fidesz has often compared Gyurcsany’s current government to that which served the interests of the Habsburgs 160 years ago.

In September 2006, protests and riots broke out after Gyurcsany was heard admitting on a leaked recording that he had lied for months about the economy, so as to win the April 2006 elections.

from here.

National holiday but no national unity in Hungary Monday, Mar 17 2008 

A national holiday in Hungary has come to an end in an atmosphere of national discord. As night fell in Budapest minor scuffles broke out, with small neo-nazi groups the most vociferous of thousands of anti-government protestors. Heavy security measures though prevented the violent demonstrations seen in recent years that many had feared.

The holiday commemorates the failed Hungarian revolt of 1848 against the Habsburg empire.

The leader of the main opposition party, Viktor Orban, seized the chance to compare the current government to the one supported by the Habsburgs 160 years ago. Then the Hungarian people wanted independence.

Now, the problems are mainly economic. An EU member since 2004, Hungary has the bloc’s slowest rate of economic growth and its highest budget deficit. Last week the socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany lost a referendum over planned reforms. He had hoped to introduce fees in hospitals and universities.

Recent surveys put Gyurcsany’s approval ratings at just 19 percent. Investors have praised him for improving the budget deficit but the public, hit by tax rises and spending cuts, seems to be running out of patience.



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