BUDAPEST, Hungary – Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany will not quit, his Socialist Party said Monday, amid signs that protests demanding his resignation might be running out of steam.
Replacing Gyurcsany is not on the agenda, party official Ildiko Lendvai told Hungarian TV, accusing "arsonists and looters" of being behind such demands.
After a week of protests, smaller crowds turned out Sunday, in a sign that the prime minister might be weathering the storm of outrage over his leaked comments admitting his government lied about the nation's dire economic situation.
Despite the additional draw of a pop concert by local stars, only about 5,000 people turned out to demonstrate in Budapest on Sunday -- the eighth day of protests against Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany -- with the crowd dispersing shortly after midnight.
A day earlier, 20,000 people flocked to Kossuth Square, the main demonstration venue -- the biggest demonstration to date.
About 60 people were in the square by daybreak Monday.
Gyurcsany remained defiant in the face of calls to resign. In an interview published Sunday, he said he still planned to seek his party's chairmanship next year and that the results of next Sunday's municipal elections would not affect his plans for tough economic reform.
"Neither the government's actions nor what happens in the party depend on the final outcome (of the elections)," Gyurcsany was quoted as telling the Vasarnap Reggel newspaper. "I'm going to fight for these policies and part of it is the modernization of the Socialist Party."
Separately, he linked the center-right opposition to rioting earlier this week that left hundreds of people injured and caused damage totaling hundreds of thousands of euros.
"This is not only the tragedy of the Hungarian right but also of Hungarian democracy," he told reporters.
The real test of public sentiment comes later this week. During working days, the size of the protest did not go much above 10,000, and the size of weekday crowds will be a yardstick of continued opposition.
Demonstrations in the countryside also appeared to be ebbing with no more than several dozens showing up in several towns and cities where previous demonstrations had drawn hundreds.
Protesters vowed to continue demonstrating even after the municipal elections.
"Our protest will not cease until the Cabinet resigns," said Tamas Molnar, one of the organizers. "We want to bring down the current post-communist government."
The first protests began last Sunday, drawing thousands. For two days, police battled hundreds of radicals trying to storm strategic or symbolic buildings, including the Socialist Party headquarters.
Many are outraged at Gyurcsany's admission that his government had "lied morning, evening and night" about the economy. A tape of the comments 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.
More than 150 people have been taken into custody since the riots erupted early Tuesday.