His country engulfed in the biggest crisis since the fall of Communism, Hungary's Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, was still clinging to his job last night, despite committing one of the cardinal sins of politics.
All leaders are sometimes economical with the truth but very few admit it, let alone say that they "lied morning, noon and night" to win an election.
In Budapest, riot police were preparing for a second night of protests aimed at forcing the 45-year-old millionaire out of office.
The scale of the reaction to the premier's comments has plunged Hungary into turmoil and left the rest of Europe looking on amazed.
On Monday night, a full-scale riot developed after thousands of protesters marched on the headquarters of Hungarian state television. Yesterday more than 150 people were injured, two-thirds of them police officers, one of whom suffered serious head wounds.
As protesters began to gather again in the Hungarian capital yesterday, two questions were being asked. What prompted Mr Gyurcsany's extraordinary candour, and why was the reaction - even to such a blunt admission - so violent?
The root of the problem lies in the management of Hungary's economy, one of the weakest in Europe. Hungary is dependent on its imports of raw goods. But, because it has a large number of multinationals, Hungary also depends for its prosperity on the health of its export markets, particularly in the EU With the downturn in the French and German economies, Hungary was in trouble.
Mr Gyurcsany's centre-left government knew that telling the truth about the state of the economy would lose them the April election. Yet having lied to the voters, the party faced a problem when it won.
The Hungarian budget deficit is set to rise to 10.1 per cent of gross domestic product, the worst in the EU and more than 7 percentage points greater than the ceiling for countries which (like Hungary) want to join the euro. As one official put it: "The target date for joining was supposed to be 2008, then it was 2009, then 2013 - and now we have simply stopped talking about it."
The only way to bring his party in line behind the dose of austerity which the country needed, Mr Gyurcsany decided, was shock tactics.
At a …