Hungarian PM says his fate hinges on reforms

 
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BUDAPEST, May 12 (Reuters) Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany urged his Socialist Party today to continue backing his reforms and suggested he would not lead the government if the party abandoned his policies.

Gyurcsany said that if the Socialists were ''brave enough'' to transform education, health care and public administration, the party would recover public support and be in position once again to win elections in 2010.

''The fate of my government and myself is intertwined with the renewal of the country ... I did not become prime minister to abandon this renewal,'' Gyurcsany told a party gathering.

His comments came as President Laszlo Solyom, one of Hungary's most popular and respected leaders, said the reforms lacked vision and the government's actions damaged trust in the country's democratic framework.

''People's faith in the democratic institutions has plunged.

Life has become crude and without norms,'' Solyom told national daily Magyar Nemzet today.

Yesterday, a survey from political think tank Szazadveg showed two-thirds of Hungarians thought the country had fallen behind other post-communist nations and its economy was not going in the right direction.

Support for the Socialists, who were reelected in April 2006, plunged shortly after the vote when the government hiked taxes and cut spending to curb the budget deficit, the biggest in the 27-nation European Union.

The social and political rift widened last autumn after Gyurcsany admitted in a leaked tape he had misled voters about the parlous state of the economy to win the vote.

In recent months, health care reforms, which have included hospital closures, doctor visit fees and drug price hikes have generated widespread discontent among voters.

Most polls now show the Socialists with support of under 20 per cent and give the centre-right opposition party Fidesz a double digit lead.

Today, Gyurcsany urged calm, despite the poll numbers.

''If we keep going forward, we'll be in position once again by 2010,'' he said. But he admitted the party must involve people more with the often painful reforms.

''Reform politics has to be broadened, we must involve more people in how we plan it but there's just no reason to stop,'' Gyurcsany said.

REUTERS SG KP1748

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