Hungarians blame crisis on failure to purge Communism

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The Independent Online

Gabor Topolay was just two years old when Communism was toppled in Hungary but he has strong views about what happened after.

"The ex-Communists became the biggest capitalists," Mr Topolay said as he stood with flag-waving friends and fellow pro-testers at the Parliament building in Budapest's Kossuth Square. "Our goal is to wash them out of political and economic life because the slaves of the old system cannot be important people in this country. They were killers."

Mr Topolay, 19, a law student, is among thousands of young people who believe the problems faced by today's Hungary were spawned by the bloodless transition of 1989 which failed to purge former Communists from public life. Ferenc Gyurcsany, Hungary's beleaguered Socialist Prime Minister, triggered this week's demonstrations with his leaked admission that he lied to the voters "morning, noon and night" to win elections in April.

But what makes him such a hate figure is that he held a post in the Young Communists under the old regime and profited from its demise. Property deals in the privatisation heyday of the 1990s made him one of Hungary's 50 richest men.

Mr Gyurcsany, who comes from a humble background, lives in a lavish villa with his third wife, Klara Dobrev, the granddaughter of a Communist-era leader. For many protesters, Mr Gyurcsany is living proof that Hungary never confronted its past.

Sebestyen Gorka, director of a think-tank called the Institute for Transitional Democracy and International Security, says other former Communist nations managed things better. "In Poland, they had years of opposition with Solidarity," he said. "In the Czech Republic, they had Vaclev Havel and Charter 88; people who said, 'We are not going to negotiate with, and legitimise, the old regime. We are going to tell them what the problem is'. We didn't have any of this here."

He believes the laws on excluding ex-Communists from public life were too weak. "In Chile, it took 30 years to talk about the dictatorship," Mr Gorka said. "Here, 16 years is evidently too short a time to deal with this issue."

With the anniversary of the 1956 uprising, and its brutal suppression, just weeks away, young Hungarians will be reminded of the misery people endured under the Communists, further fuelling their dissatisfaction. Mr Gabor added: "We need a revolution; we have to have proper change."