Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said the overnight riots were "the longest and darkest night" for the country since the end of communism in 1989. About 150 people were injured, including 102 police officers, one of whom suffered serious head injuries, officials said.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Gyurcsany defiantly refused to resign, as protesters have demanded, vowing to carry out an economic overhaul that will nurse the economy back to health.
"I'm staying and I'm doing my job. I'm extremely committed to fulfilling my program, fiscal adjustments and reforms," Gyurcsany told the AP. "I know it's very difficult for the people, but it's the only direction for Hungary."
Gyurcsany condemned the "vandalism" of 2,000 to 3,000 protesters who fought police and invaded Hungarian television headquarters, but said he had complete confidence in the police's ability to restore order.
The outpouring of rage may be linked to austerity measures Gyurcsany's Socialist-led coalition has implemented in order to rein in a state budget deficit expected to surpass 10 percent of gross domestic product this year — the largest in the European Union.
The government has raised taxes and announced plans to lay off scores of state employees, and introduce direct fees in the health sector and tuition for most university students.
Until the scandal suddenly broke this weekend, the 45-year-old Gyurcsany had been the Socialist Party's golden boy — a youthful, charismatic leader promising to lead his nation to the prosperity as a full EU member.
His coalition with the Alliance of Free Democrats in April became the first Hungarian government to win re-election since the return to democracy in 1990.