Press split over Hungary turmoil
Wednesday, September 20, 2006, 09:11
Hungary's leading newspapers are sharply divided over Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s critic that the political elite lied in order to secure victory in April's general election (and not only then). "Drama and catharsis" says the headline in the left-leaning Népszava, accompanied by photographs of overnight anti-government protests outside parliament in Budapest. The paper accuses the center-right Fidesz opposition of deliberately organizing the demonstrations for political gain.
"Fidesz is determined to provoke political chaos to force the government to resign," it says. The country's best-selling newspaper, the center-left Népszabadság, says most Hungarians already knew they had been misled by the Socialists on economic policy, and argues that the prime minister was simply coming clean. "What we have learnt," the paper says, "is that Ferenc Gyurcsány was honest". His government, it adds, should now "have the guts" to pursue the reform plans it originally lied about, or resign.
Other leading papers believe it is just a matter of time before Gyurcsány resigns. What he really meant by his admission, says the conservative Magyar Nemzet, is that Hungarians should now "forget what they think about democracy". It is impossible to predict how the political elite will survive this scandal wrote Magyar Hírlap. For this reason, the paper insists, "not much remains for the left to do other than to sack him". Alternatively, it adds, his supporters could just "erect a memorial". The liberal Magyar Hírlap sets out a slightly wider range of options for Gyurcsány. The paper says he could ask for a vote of confidence in his government, resign or try to stay in power, although it warns the government's days are numbered. "It is impossible," the paper says, "to predict how the political elite will survive this scandal".
Hungary's European neighbors are also looking on with interest. One columnist in the center-right Romanian daily Romania Libera forecasts "the whole row could cost the Socialists dear" in October's local elections. Meanwhile, a commentator in Slovakia's center-left Pravda warns that if the lies uttered by Hungary's Socialists go unpunished, "truth will not prevail any time soon, despite the prime minister's promises". But for a columnist in another Slovak daily, the center-right Sme, the affair offers wider lessons about the nature of politics. Suggestions that lying is part and parcel of political life, he says, "hold true for all present-day democracies and their political elites". (BBC News)