Outcome of Hungary Upheaval Still Unclear

Outcome of Hungary Upheaval Still Unclear

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- In parts, the May 26 speech Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany gave to his Socialist party was something of a grand mea culpa. "I almost died when I had to pretend for one and a half years as if we were governing," he said on tape. "I am through with this. We either do it and then you've got your man, or you pick someone else." At other times, the speech seemed a sweeping political treatise delivered in the belligerent incoherence of a taxi driver stuck in traffic. "Since they know my mother's name . . . she receives better service, damn it! She did not understand what was happening. Has the health care system been mended, my son? I tell her: Bullshit, Mom!"

Yet, when on the evening of Sept. 17 an audio tape of this closed-door meeting emerged to the public, all that seemed to matter to Hungarians was the truth about the lies. "We have obviously lied over the past one and a half, two years. It was absolutely clear that what we were saying was not true . . . we have screwed it up big time."

The news spread like wildfire, as a frenzy of outrage and disbelief took the country of 10 million by storm. By nightfall, demonstrators from around the country were streaming to the Parliament, demanding the prime minister stand down. The following night, thousands of peaceful demonstrators watched, mouths agape, as enraged youths and drunken hooligans rioted, in what Gyurcsany referred to the following morning as Hungary's darkest night since the end of communism. Accustomed to existing away from the media spotlight, Hungary's domestic crisis captured the world's attention, with scenes of mayhem at Freedom Square vividly reminiscent of the 1956 anti-Soviet Hungarian Uprising, the 50th anniversary of which is set to be commemorated this month.

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