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Fidesz calls protest if PM fails to resign

Fidesz, the biggest opposition party, called on the Socialists to hold a no-confidence vote against prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány within 72 hours and dismiss him from the post, its Chairman Viktor Orbán said at a press conference yesterday. Should the Socialist Party fail to do so by 1 p.m. on October 5, Fidesz will protest in front of Parliament the next day, Orbán said. A vote of no-confidence has to include the name of the proposed new prime minister and its passing results in the immediate ouster of the entire government, under the Hungarian Constitution. Street clashes between protesters and police last month and demands for his resignation, after the tape's release, effectively turned the local elections into a vote of confidence in the premier. The opposition is now seeking to pile on the pressure, said Vision Consulting's Orsolya Szomszéd.

„Orbán sees this as now or never to replace the government,” she said in a phone interview yesterday. „They want to maintain this pressure from the masses, this social tension. His strategy is not realistic if the coalition parties remain firm behind the prime minister.” The opposition Fidesz party will control 18 of 19 county assemblies and 15 of the 22 largest cities. In a combined tally of votes, which doesn't include the 22 largest cities where party lists aren't on the ballots, the governing coalition received 37.7% to 52.6% for the opposition. The coalition got 49.7% in the April parliamentary election, when the opposition got 47%. Aside from the Fidesz rallies, farmers and public workers such as teachers and doctors have threatened protests against the spending cuts, which may test the government's resilience. 43% of voters in a nationwide Gallup poll on September 19 said Gyurcsány should resign. The margin of error was 4.1%.

Gyurcsány is raising taxes and axing subsidies for natural gas, medicines and electricity to curb the European Union's largest budget deficit and meet terms to adopt the euro. People used to a decade of government handouts are more concerned about living standards than changing currencies. Gyurcsány attributed the vote's outcome to the austerity measures and vowed to continue his policies. „I can see and feel that a lot of people are critical of these policies,” Gyurcsány said on public television on Sunday night. „What it can provide on short term is full of conflict and its long-term fruits are difficult to grasp. I have no doubt that we have to continue the policies that we have recently proposed.” The government has little choice, economists say. The deficit will swell to 10% of GDP this year, up from 7.5% in 2005 and way above the 3% deficit limit imposed by the EU on euro aspirants. The forint fell by the most in more than a week on concern Gyurcsány may lose the vote of confidence. The currency traded at 275.45 per euro at 3:15 p.m. in Budapest, from 272.95 late on September 29. Hungary's benchmark BUX stock index dropped 2.1% to the lowest level in a month. „There's a real danger to the prime minister himself and to the austerity program,” said Paul McNamara, who helps manage almost $7 billion of global assets at Julius Baer Investment Management in London. „This poses severe threats to the forint.” (Bloomberg)