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Hungarian opposition leader predicts government will crumble

Hungarian opposition leader Viktor Orbán predicted the government will fall and told his supporters to stand up to riot police, which he said served the political purposes of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány.

„The regime is marching toward its destiny,” he told a crowd in downtown Budapest, estimated as much as 100,000. ”It uses the policy for party purposes, harasses and provokes peaceful law-abiding citizens. It's piling up the kindling and playing with fire.” Police across the country are on high alert to clamp down on anti-government protesters should they threaten to turn another holiday into a riot. Demonstrations last year turned into the worst street violence in Hungary in 50 years. Several hundred people including bandana-clad youth were gathering close to a museum in central Budapest as of 6:20 p.m. local time. Police were at the location. Riots erupted after Gyurcsány admitted lying about the economy to win reelection. A month later, on the October 23 national holiday, police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to break up more protests.

Orbán said today the government is acting without the public's support when moving to overhaul the economy after running up the European Union's widest budget deficit last year. It is also responsible for the state of the economy, for the riots and for police brutality, Orbán said. „We won't back down from the ski-mask-wearing riot police, won't accept the forced reforms and won't cower before the new aristocracy,” Orbán said. „The people have a right to chase away the government, even in a democracy, if it doesn't govern based on public will.”

Orbán on October 23 called for a referendum to challenge the Gyurcsány's measures, just before police clashed with protesters. The vote will offer a chance for people to legally displace the government, he said. „The government parties are cornered after betraying voters, hiding the truth and thrusting the economy to a crisis,” Orbán said „The referendum opens the possibility to dismantle that last corner behind them. After that, the government will either do what the people want, or there won't be anything left for it but to run. Fast.” Thousands of demonstrators earlier today jeered Gyurcsány at a ceremonial raising of the flag, chanted anti-government slogans during a commemorative play and pelted Mayor Gábor Demszky and other elected officials with eggs, potatoes and rotten tomatoes. The government warned last month radical groups were planning attacks on officials and public buildings on March 15. Yesterday, it asked politicians to shun the protesters.

About 4,500 police officers will be on active patrol in the Hungarian capital today with helicopters monitoring from the air, according to police spokesman Lajos Németh. Streets in downtown areas and the iconic Chain Bridge will remain closed. Hungary has spent more than Ft 2.5 billion ($13 million) of European Union funds to buy crowd-control equipment since the October riots. Another consignment arrived at Budapest airport last night, news Web site reported. Police yesterday found a stash of illegal weapons in Budapest and an arsenal in eastern Hungary. Authorities also found 81 bottles, wicks and flammable liquids to make Molotov cocktails in a Budapest apartment, state news agency MTI reported, citing the country's National Bureau of Investigation. Five men were charged two weeks ago with targeting police and state buildings. (Bloomberg)