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Hungary's Gyurcsány apologizes for language on tape

Parliament

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, facing pressure from protesters, the opposition and public figures to resign, apologized yesterday for foul language he used in a speech leaked to media last week. „I am sorry,” Gyurcsány said during a cabinet meeting in Budapest's Parliament building. „Of course, I'm sorry if someone was offended by the style. Even though exaggeration is natural. This wasn't just a speech, but a tool in a struggle. Words spoken in the dressing room have their roughness.” The tape, on which Gyurcsány also admitted to lying about the state of the economy to win an election in April, sparked demonstrations that continued for an 11th day outside the door where he spoke yesterday. Crowds were as big as 20,000 the past weekend, while about 100 people still demanded his resignation at 10:45 a.m. yesterday. The protests turned into riots for three days last week, the most sustained street violence in Hungary since Soviet tanks crushed an anti-communist uprising fifty years ago. Rioters clashed with police, burned cars and seized the building of state television, leaving more than 260 people injured.

„We screwed it up, big time,” Gyurcsány said on the tape leaked from a closed Socialist party meeting in May. „No country in Europe has been so blatant. We obviously lied throughout the past 1 1/2 to 2 years. And meanwhile, we didn't do a thing for four years. Nothing.” People calling for his resignation include former President Ferenc Mádl. Gyurcsány refused to quit, which prompted the opposition to frame an October 1 municipal election as a referendum on his person and his government's austerity measures aimed to control the European Union's widest budget deficit. Gyurcsány said he was seeking to regain public trust and pledged to continue his government's policies to cut the shortfall and to overhaul public spending. The lesson of the past week's events was to communicate more clearly, he said. „I understood the message of the past weeks and months and will act accordingly,” Gyurcsány said. „It's not enough to do, but we also have to talk clearly about that. This is my responsibility and we will change that.”

The events of the past few weeks forced Hungarians to face the reality of unsustainable growth in living standards in the past six years, Gyurcsány said. The people understand the need for reforms, even if their own livelihoods will be negatively affected by the measures, he added. „We are ending the illusion and that is the biggest challenge,” Gyurcsány said. „We were driven by the illusion that economic growth would solve our problems, that we can outgrow the problems with the budget balance. For years, we only saw what we wanted to see. We wanted to spare the effort.” (Bloomberg)

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