Hungary’s prime minister stunned the country Saturday by announcing his resignation because he had become an “obstacle” to the reforms needed to pull the country out of its worst financial crisis since the end of communism nearly 20 years ago.
Ferenc Gyurcsany, of the ruling Socialists, made the unexpected announcement at his party’s congress, saying that he was keeping a pledge he made in January last year to change the leadership if the embattled party’s popularity failed to recover.
He accepted his reputation was badly damaged when state radio in 2006 broadcast a speech he made at a party meeting in which he admitted lying about the state of the economy to win elections a few months earlier.
Gyurcsany, however, seemed to be hedging his bets.
Just hours after saying he was ready to resign as prime minister, he was re-elected chairman of the Socialist Party with over 80 percent of the votes, giving him a say in choosing his possible successor.
Israelis break up Palestinian events
Israeli authorities broke up a series of Palestinian cultural events in Jerusalem on Saturday, disrupting a children’s march and bursting balloons at a schoolyard celebration in a crackdown that underscored the emotional battle over control of the disputed holy city.
Palestinian activists called for Saturday’s celebrations to mark the Arab League’s designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture for 2009. The 23-nation group chooses a different city for the honor each year.
But Israel said the events violated a ban on Palestinian political activity in Jerusalem. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas criticized the crackdown.
Announcing the ban on Saturday’s events, Israel’s internal security minister, Avi Dichter, accused Abbas’ Palestinian Authority of being behind the activities. Israel does not allow the Palestinian government to have a presence in Jerusalem, saying it undercuts Israel’s claim to the city.
Widows, others rally against mafia
Widows, children and grandchildren of many of those slain by Italy’s various mafias rallied in Naples to protest organized crime.
The annual march on the first day of spring drew thousands of participants Saturday along Naples’ waterfront.
An Italian priest who runs a group called “Libera” (Free) organizes the march and helps citizens fight organized crime.
Judges, prosecutors and police officers are among those slain over the decades by Cosa Nostra, the Camorra and the ’ndrangheta, Italy’s three big crime syndicates based in the south.
From wire reports