BUDAPEST, Hungary – Mounted police charged bottle-hurling protesters outside Socialist party headquarters early Wednesday, in renewed unrest fomented by the prime minister's leaked admission that his government had repeatedly lied to the public about the health of Hungary's economy.
Unlike the previous day, no one was reported injured in the clashes, which involved only splinter groups separate from a larger demonstration of some 10,000 people who gathered for a third night in Kossuth Square, the vast plaza outside the neo-Gothic parliament building.
Dozens in the bigger crowd in the square waved Hungarian flags, and some demonstrators set up tents, signaling they intended to stay at least overnight. Several said they would remain even longer — until the resignation of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, whose taped comments set off the country's worst violence since its failed anti-Soviet revolution 50 years ago.
"I hope we can accomplish our goal," said Tamas Szep, 48, a paint supplies wholesaler. "Not only the prime minister, but all of his sidekicks have to go."
Protesters accused the governing coalition of lying to win the April elections, but people also were upset over tax boosts and other economic austerity measures that Gyurcsany has ordered over the last three months.
A 22-year-old student who identified herself only as Mariann compared Gyurcsany to a child caught telling untruths and suggested the Socialist Party leader, who is friends with Russian President Vladimir Putin, be banished to Siberia.
"My mother used to stand me in the corner for lying," she said. "Gyurcsany should stand in the corner of Siberia for lying to the whole country."
Opposition leader Viktor Orban, whose center-right FIDESZ party lost in the elections, also demanded the prime minister's resignation, describing him as "a sick, lying dilettante."
Gyurcsany — whose taped comments admitting his government had "lied morning, evening and night" about the economy provoked the fury — said he intended to weather the storm.
"I'm staying and I'm doing my job. I'm extremely committed to fulfilling my program, fiscal adjustments and reforms," he told The Associated Press. "I know it's very difficult for the people, but it's the only direction for Hungary."
Police were caught off guard the previous night by the fury of a few thousand people who broke away from the main demonstration and stormed the state TV building. Pushing past officers with protective helmets, clubs and shields, about 400 got inside, breaking glass and causing other damage.
The violence shook a country that for much of its last two decades had been held up as a model of progress following the collapse of communism in eastern Europe.
About 150 people were injured, including 102 police officers, one of whom suffered serious head injuries. Gyurcsany called it Hungary's "longest and darkest night" since the end of communist rule in 1989.
As the crowd grew again on Kossuth Square, hundreds of police from around the country arrived to reinforce officers guarding government buildings in the downtown Pest area. Gyurcsany ordered police commanders to use all means to prevent violence while respecting the democratic right to freedom of expression.
The public was stunned by the blunt admissions of government ineptitude during its first term and the cynicism contained in a 25-minute tape that was widely aired and published by news media over the weekend.
"We did nothing for four years. Nothing," Gyurcsany said on the tape, made during a private talk with Socialist parliament members that was larded with crude expressions. Later he said: "We screwed up. Not a little, a lot.
"No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have ... Plainly, we lied throughout the last year and a half, two years," the prime minister said.
The outpouring of rage was fueled by austerity measures implemented by Gyurcsany's Socialist-led coalition seeking to rein in a government budget deficit expected to surpass 10 percent of Hungary's gross domestic product this year — the largest in the European Union.
The government has raised taxes and announced plans to lay off dozens of employees and to introduce direct fees in the health sector and tuition for most university students.
Until the scandal broke Sunday, the 45-year-old Gyurcsany had been the Socialist Party's golden boy — a youthful, charismatic leader promising to lead his nation to prosperity as a full EU member.
Along with Putin, he counts among his friends Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and President Bush, whom he presented with a handmade pair of riding boots during the U.S. leader's visit in June.
In the April ballot, his coalition with the Alliance of Free Democrats became the first Hungarian government to win consecutive elections since the return to democracy in 1990.
The origin of the leaked tape remained murky.
When confronted with initial excerpts of the 25-minute recording that state radio put up on its Web site Sunday afternoon, Gyurcsany not only confirmed the tape's authenticity but seemed relieved his comments had been made public.
That led some people to speculate the tape might have been released by Gyurcsany's own office, arguing he might hope a scandal could work in his favor by revealing the full extent of Hungary's economic malaise and casting him in the role of its savior.
The prime minister denied any involvement with the tape becoming public.