Expulsion splits Hungarian ruling party: Purge of extremist could destroy majority

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The Independent Online
BALATONFOLDVAR, Hungary - Hungary's dominant political party voted to expel the right-wing leader, Istvan Csurka, yesterday, splitting the Hungarian Democratic Forum (HDF) and raising the prospect of early elections.

The widely expected move could prompt a crisis if enough Csurka supporters follow him out of the party and rob the centre-right coalition of the Prime Minister, Jozsef Antall, of its majority in parliament.

The vote marks the climax of a drama that started last August, when Mr Csurka published an essay that alleged liberals, Communists, Jews and international financiers had conspired to keep true Hungarians from becoming masters of their own fate. Critics, including some HDF members, said the treatise smacked of anti- Semitism and xenophobia. They expressed worries about his references to Hungary's need for lebensraum (living space) and ethnic purity.

At an all-night national board meeting in this lakeside resort, delegates from local party organisations decided that Mr Csurka had improperly deviated from the HDF's programme by establishing his own political movement, Magyar Way.

They recommended by a three-to- one margin that the party's ethics committee strip Mr Csurka, who had helped found the HDF in the dying days of Communist rule, and three of his radical right-wing supporters of their membership if the four did not leave voluntarily.

Mr Csurka, a playwright whose extreme nationalist views galvanised the split between his devotees and Mr Antall's centrist followers, refused to go quietly. 'This meeting has committed a historic mistake and a crime,' he told Hungarian radio. The ethics committee, which must settle the issue within 15 days, seems unlikely to overturn the board's decision.

After the vote, Mr Antall said Mr Csurka's ejection would end the infighting that has beset the HDF for months and would let the party concentrate on winning the 1994 elections. He brushed aside suggestions that defections by Mr Csurka's camp might threaten the coalition, saying: 'I remain confident the government will maintain its majority.'

The HDF's acting president, Sandor Lezsak, has estimated that Mr Csurka could take as many as 10 to 15 deputies with him when he left. That would put the three-party coalition that replaced reform Communists in 1990 dangerously close to a minority role. After the latest expulsions they have a majority of around 16 seats in the 386-seat assembly.

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