Former Hungarian President Ferenc Mádl and 10 other prominent citizens asked Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány to resign, saying staying in office would compromise democracy and hurt the country's reputation abroad. The group, in a letter published in the Magyar Nemzet newspaper today, said Gyurcsány was no longer fit for office after he was caught on tape saying his Socialist Party lied to voters about the state of the economy to win April elections. „You and your government knowingly misled the Hungarian people for years about the true situation of the country, making it impossible for them to make a responsible decision in the 2006 elections,” they wrote in the letter. Gyurcsány's expletive-laden confession, leaked to the media September 17, sparked three consecutive nights of riots in the capital. Tens of thousands of peaceful protesters have also gathered outside Hungary's Parliament demanding Gyurcsány's resignation. „Mádl has every right to formulate this question,” Socialist Party Vice President Imre Szekeres said, according to the newspaper.
„The Socialists and the Free Democrats have full confidence in the prime minister,” he said, adding „Mádl won't tell the party what to do.” Mádl, who served as Hungary's president from 2000 to 2005, was elected by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who now leads the opposition Fidesz Party. His co-signers include former central bank President Péter Ákos Bod and former Foreign Minister János Martonyi, both linked to conservative parties, as well as film director Sándor Sára and composer Sándor Szokolay. The tapes, recorded May 26, showed the prime minister lashing out at himself and his government and the current political elite for having done nothing to reverse Hungary's economic decline for the sake of political expediency. Hungary's budget deficit, set to reach 10.1% of GDP this year, is the largest in the European Union. Two weeks later, Gyurcsány announced measures including higher taxes and increased prices for medicines, natural gas and electricity that are aimed at reducing the deficit. The subsequent protests prompted Moody's Investors Service to place Hungary's credit ratings on review September 22. (Bloomberg)