Hungarian government wins confidence vote but streets remain anything but calm

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, photo: CTK

Budapest has again seen massive protests as the opposition party Fidesz again calls out its supporters to demand that Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany resign. But the Prime Minister is sticking to his guns, winning a confidence motion in parliament - but apologising for not facing up the countries economic woes.

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, photo: CTK
He vowed to press on with an austerity package aimed at reviving Hungary's finances. The dispute arose after Mr Gyursany admitted the government lied about the state of the economy. Some commentators say the country is going through a major political, moral and economic crisis. I spoke to Krisztian Szabados - director of the Political Capital Institute in Budapest and asked him - can the Prime Minister hold on to power?

"Now, we see a very united coalition behind him. He is strong in Parliament and he's strong enough to push his reforms through. That is not the situation on the streets, mostly generated by Fidesz and its leader Viktor Orban. I think it's very interesting because you can hold a demonstration for weeks but you can't change or influence the government on the streets."

But if those demonstrations go on, and they are very large, they must put pressure on the Prime Minister...

"Yes, but not constitutionally and legally. It's political pressure."

What about the speech by the Hungarian President in which he said the Prime Minister should take responsibility?

Photo: CTK
"According to the Hungarian constitution, there is no legal way for the president to interfere in politics. His speech sent a clear message to the political parties that they should hold a vote of confidence and the prime minister should resign. That's the real political pressure. We will also see a different kind of demonstrations next weeks. As we saw two weeks ago, Fidesz cannot keep its control over the crowd. The demonstrations may turn violent and we see that organisations that are very close to Fidesz are now staging road blockades everywhere in the country. So, I don't know where this demonstration can lead."

Most people seem to agree that Hungary needs this reform, this austerity programme to bring the nation's finances back into some sort of respectable realm. Apart from the parliamentary support, do most Hungarians understand the need for that?

"If you ask the people on the street whether they agree with reforms they say 'yes'but if you ask whether they would agree with paying for them they say 'no'."

Does Fidesz have a cohesive reform policy as well? Will it carry out the necessary austerity programme such as Mr Gyurcsany is proposing?

"The main message of Fidesz is that the people want to sack the prime minister and his austerity package but Fidesz has so far not talked about its own programme except that it wants to cut taxes. But economically and fiscally, it's not a reasonable answer."

Coming back to the mood on the streets. Would you say this is really a crisis for Hungary and that it could go on for weeks and could get much worse with blockades and protests?

"I would say it's a moral and political crisis. It could lead to unconstitutional situations and could escalate. But what I am most afraid of is that it could lead to a fiscal crisis, a currency crisis. It is in the interest of Fidesz to escalate things to lead to this because then the economy collapses and the prime minister would then have to resign."