Commemoration of 1956 uprising upstaged by huge far-right rally

Laszlo-SolyomBudapest - Austere commemorations of Hungary's most import national holiday were overshadowed Friday by politicking and a rally by the far right.

On this day in 1956, Hungary fought alone in a doomed uprising against the might of the Soviet Union. Thus, it was no coincidence that October 23 was chosen in 1989 to end the single-party, Communist Hungarian People's Republic and found today's democratic Republic of Hungary. The day is still celebrated.

However, twenty years after the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the events on this October 23 did little more than highlight stark political and social divisions that remain to this day.

Official commemorative services - attended by President Laszlo Solyom, Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai and politicians from the governing Hungarian Socialist Party - were held on bleak, empty squares.

The atmosphere in front of parliament and later across town at the recently renamed 56-ers Square on this misty October morning was sombre.

The events were sparsely attended: metal barriers to keep at bay the expected hecklers and egg throwers were not selective.

In the centre of Budapest, however, the voice most heard was that of the extremists. Riot police were on standby in Budapest as the sun went down on the 20th anniversary of the third Hungarian Republic.

Thousands filled the central Deak Square and wide streets leading in to it to hear the heads of the ultra-nationalist party Jobbik and invited guests from the other European far-right parties.

Jobbik won three of Hungary's 22 seats in the European Parliament in June with 15 per cent of the vote, after campaigning on an anti- gypsy, anti-globalization, Eurosceptic platform.

The head of Jobbik's representation in Brussels, lawyer Krisztina Morvai, touched a chord with the crowd:

"We must banish those who shoot out eyes from Hungarian politics,"

This unlikely statement referred to heavy handed police intervention on October 23, 2006, when rubber bullets and water cannon were deployed against violent anti-government demonstrators, injuring dozens of bystanders.

Morvai has spent much of her time in Brussels so far in calling on the European Union to investigate what she describes as state- sponsored terror and the "torture" of "hundreds" of anti-government activists.

"The future belongs to the likes of us," Morvai told her thousands of supporters.

Invited representatives of the French National Front, the British National Party and other European far-right parties also voiced their support.

If Jobbik garners 15 per cent of the vote again in next year's election, it could win over 50 places in Hungary's 386-seat parliament.

Party leader Gabor Vona told the assembled thousands that Jobbik will soon be the "strongest party in Hungarian politics."

Vona is also head of the Hungarian Guard, a uniformed paramilitary organisation that was recently banned by the courts. The group recently defied the court order at a mass rally in the capital.

Opposition centre-right party Fidesz also held its own event, some 10 kilometres away from the official ceremonies.

Fidesz refused to take part in the official ceremonies: it considers Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai's Socialist-backed caretaker government "illegitimate."

"The true voice of Hungary is not extremism, not dictatorship, not money, not the voice of hate, but that of well meaning and acting Hungarian people," Fidesz leader Viktor Orban said.

Fidesz - with a commanding lead in opinion polls - is confident of forming the next government. Hungary must hold a general election in April next year at the latest. (dpa)