BUDAPEST, Hungary – Thousands of protesters demanded the prime minister's resignation for lying to the country about the dire state of the economy in a loud but peaceful demonstration that lasted into early Friday.
But in a sign of cooling passions after three days of clashes — the worst violence in Hungary since the anti-Soviet revolution 50 years ago — police reported no major incidents.
Nine people were detained for the relatively minor infractions of disturbing public order, defying authorities and destroying traffic signs.
The first protests against Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany began on Sunday after a recording was leaked in which the Socialist leader admitted that his government lied about Hungary's economic state to win April elections.
Demonstrations swelled to thousands for several nights running, with police battling several hundreds radicals trying to storm strategic or symbolic buildings. The looting left hundreds injured and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
On Thursday, an estimated 10,000 protesters had gathered outside parliament by evening — but the demonstration was peaceful, and most left the square by the pre-dawn hours Friday.
Encouraged by the drop in violence and seeking to return to business as usual, Gyurcsany was set to travel to Germany on Friday to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and give a speech at a business forum in Berlin.
Government spokeswoman Emese Danks said Gyurcsany's German visit would be shorter than planned but said the prime minister considered the trip and the encounter with Merkel to be of great importance.
Gyurcsany has reiterated his desire to stay on the job and carry through the reforms needed to remedy Hungary's ailing economy.
"The government has no desire to change its policies or its composition," Gyurcsany said Thursday at a meeting with leaders of some parliamentary parties. "The government and the political forces behind it want to continue their policies of facing up to the issues and change."
In a move welcomed by the prime minister, the main center-right opposition party Fidesz postponed a political rally planned for Saturday, citing security concerns.
Jobbik, a small far-right party, also canceled a planned gathering and urged supporters to join the protests outside parliament.
Laszlo Koever, a member of Fidesz's board, said his party had received "concrete information about planned bomb attacks" and other "provocations" from government and state security officials.
Koever said the rally would be held after the Oct. 1 municipal elections.
The protests reflected outrage over Gyurcsany's admission that he had "lied morning, evening and night" about the economy. The tape was made at a closed-door meeting in late May, weeks after Gyurcsany's government became the first in post-communist Hungary to win re-election.
Gyurcsany praised the Fidesz decision to postpone its rally as "the only correct solution" but again stood his ground, insisting that his government intends to press ahead with economic reforms.
Still, Fidesz did not attend a meeting with Gyurcsany about the current state of affairs and insisted that Gyurcsany's admission of deceit rendered him incapable of pushing through his program.
"The government's legitimacy and acceptance depends on whether ... voters accept this situation or not," Fidesz leader Viktor Orban said late Thursday on TV2 television. "I think this government has lost its credibility."
Orban, who served as prime minister between 1998-2002, has proposed setting up a temporary "government of experts," including economists and other professionals, to put the country's economy back in order.
More than 150 people have been taken into custody since the riots erupted early Tuesday and Hungarian media also reported smaller demonstrations in a several other cities and towns late Thursday.