Monday, October 23, 2006

Warning signs

October 23rd is a date that has great resonance in Hungarian history- it is the anniversary of the Hungarian uprising of 1956. This year- the 50th anniversary- has proven to be far more contentious that previous years. Partly this is because this is one of the last major commemorations where many of those who took part are still alive. Partly, though it is a function of the political dispute that has wracked the country since the leftist Prime Minister admitted that he had "lied and lied" about government policy.

Many of the insurrectionists are fiercely opposed to the government, which they see as the successor to the old Communist Party. Many will refuse to acknowledge the Prime Minister or to shake his hand. The legacy of bitterness has continued even to generations that were not alive in 1956. Hungarian politics- fifty years on- remain fractured and immature.

Worse still is the political position of Bulgaria- which is set to join the European Union in two months time. The Presidential election will be a run-off between the Socialist (not very ex-Communist) Georgi Purvanov and the leader of the neo-fascist Attaka party, Volen Siderov.

The moderate parties have been squeezed between the radical contenders. The fact that Siderov has made it to the second round, albeit that he is unlikely to win, should concern everyone. His racist attacks on Turks, Roma and other minorities are often little short of an incitement to violence.

Dangerous times when civic debate is so bitter- as both Bulgaria and Hungary show.

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