Hungary remembers 1848 revolution with political, cultural gatherings

18:51, March 16, 2010      

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Hungary marked the 162nd anniversary of its ill-fated revolution and war of independence against the Habsburg Empire in 1848 with an all-day series of political and cultural events on Monday.

The program began with a flag-raising ceremony at parliament and continued with cultural programs at the National Museum, site of the outbreak of the revolution, as well as a variety of historical pageants in downtown Budapest focused on children. Traffic on Chain Bridge, a symbol of the city, was limited to pedestrians and horse drawn vehicles and residents braved the wintery cold to enjoy the festivities.

President Laszlo Solyom and Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai held an award-presentation ceremony in Parliament to mark the day. They awarded the Kossuth Prize to outstanding representatives of the arts and humanities, and the Szechenyi Prize to the country's top scientists, engineers and doctors.

Speaking in Parliament, the president called for the unity of all Hungarians in and outside Hungary, saying that their cultural cohesion had to be preserved.

Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky addressed a traditional gathering on March 15 Square in the heart of the city, which was interrupted by hecklers from the far right.

President of Hungary Laszlo Solyom (L) attend the flag-hoisting ceremony marking the 162nd anniversary of the revolution and war of independence against the Habsburg Empire in 1848, in Budapest, Hungary, March 15, 2010. (Xinhua/Dani Dorko)

Demszky, a member of the liberal SZDSZ party, has spoken to crowds on March 15 every single year since first being elected to office 20 years ago. He is the longest-standing political figure to continuously hold office in Hungary but will not stand for re- election this fall.

The various political parties each held separate gatherings. Conservative Fidesz, expected to win parliamentary elections next month by a landslide, drew a huge crowd. The main speaker was Viktor Orban, party chair and the man likely to be the country's next prime minister.

Pointing out that there were only 27 days until elections, he predicted a decisive victory for his party. He likened his forthcoming election victory to a bloodless constitution-supported revolution and promised to lead Hungary in a new direction.

Eight years of left-wing rule had left the country in dire shape, he said. "The economy is in a coma, the state is staggering, the government is on its last legs, health care is in terrible shape and public security has surrendered," Orban said.

He said he would restore the economy, create jobs and protect families and the elderly and urged his followers to go to the polls, saying that the Hungarians were a talented people and could turn things around.

The far right Jobbik party, which appears ready to pull votes from both the left and the right, held its own commemoration of the holiday, in which party leader Gabor Vona said he expected to win next month's elections. About 100 members of the paramilitary Hungarian Guard formed an honor guard around the Jobbik gathering.

Speaking to the left-wing Socialists, their nominee for prime minister, Attila Mesterhazy, called on the media to monitor the political arena and to report independently, critically and in a hard-hitting way. He warned prospective voters that no matter what Fidesz promised, there was no easy way out of the economic downturn.

Source: Xinhua

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