Hungary’s Socialists call party congress amid crisis

Parliament

Hungary’s ruling Socialist Party will convene an extraordinary party congress on Sept. 27 to seek a way out of the political turmoil which is threatening to bring down its minority government.

The party said it will ask its members whether they should call for early elections, hand over power to a government of experts, or continue seeking support for its program that has been rejected by all other parties in Parliament. The future of the Socialist government was thrown into doubt last week when the liberal Free Democrats, whose votes are crucial to pass the budget, said they considered the Socialists’ program inadequate and would not support their budget.

The liberals, who left the ruling coalition in April, said they would consider a government of technocrats the best option and would only negotiate with the Socialists over the transition. The Socialists have asked the Free Democrats back to the negotiating table and said that maintaining their alliance was in the best interest of the country.

The two parties have clashed over state spending as the liberals are seeking tax and spending cuts at the expense of welfare expenditure, while the Socialists are refusing to scale back spending and only proposed a minor tax cut. Both parties are struggling in opinion polls after their government implemented major tax hikes and spending cuts to curb a ballooning budget deficit. As the Free Democrats are polling just 1%, well below the 5% needed to enter Parliament, analysts say they are unlikely to trigger early elections as such a move could mean the party’s demise. (Reuters)

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