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'Openly Anti-Semitic' Party Gains Power in Hungary

Victory in Hungary for the center-right Fidesz and far-right Jobbik parties. Jobbik is accused of anti-Semitism, racial hate.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 4/12/2010, 11:15 AM / Last Update: 4/12/2010, 11:55 AM

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The center-right and far-right won by a wide margin in Hungary's elections Sunday, initial results showed. The right-wing Fidesz party took 52.77 percent of the vote, and the far-right Jobbik party took 16.71. The incumbent Socialist party took only 19.29 percent.

Runoffs will be held later in the month in districts where no candidate received a majority of the votes.

The results were a cause for concern for European Jewish groups, which have accused Jobbik of anti-Semitism and racial hatred. One Hungarian Jewish group labeled Sunday's election the first time “a movement pursuing openly anti-Semitic policies” has gained power in Hungary since the Nazi era.

The victory for Fidesz and Jobbik came as Hungary faces increasing poverty and unemployment. The country recently turned to the International Monetary Fund with a request for aid, becoming the first European Union country to seek an IMF bailout.

On Sunday, Hungarian Jews protested in Budapest against the anti-Semitic climate in the country in advance of the elections. Recent anti-Semitic incidents have included vandalism, a neo-Nazi rally, and an attack on a rabbi's home over Passover.

In 2009, Jobbik candidate-for-parliament Judit Szima was accused of approving an article for publication that referred to anti-Semitism as “the duty of every Hungarian homeland lover,” and called to “prepare for armed battle against the Jews.” Another candidate, Krisztina Morvai, allegedly responded to criticism by saying, “I would be glad if the so-called proud Hungarian Jews would go back to playing with their tiny little circumcised tail rather than vilifying me.”

The party's magazine recently ran a picture of a statue of a bishop holding a menorah instead of a cross. “Is this what you want?” the headline asked.

Jobbik vehemently denies that it is an anti-Semitic movement, and similarly denies charges that it has promoted hatred against the Roma (gypsy) minority. The party has denied that the statements attributed to Morvai were said by her.

While the party denies charges of anti-Semitism, it admits to being politically pro-Arab. “The Movement for a Better Hungary has always been primarily sympathetic to the Palestinian cause... as Hungarian nationalists, we can sympathize more readily with a people who have had their land taken away from them, in order to form a new country,” Jobbik states on its website.

Jobbik also states that Israeli companies “dominate the Budapest property market,” and says it wants to reduce Israeli firms' control in the Hungarian capital.

Jobbik leader Gabor Vona is a founding member of the Hungarian Guard (Magyar Garda), a black-suited civilian patrol group accused by detractors of styling itself after Nazi-era groups. The Hungarian Guard was recently banned, but has not disbanded. Vona has promised to wear a Guard uniform when he is sworn in to parliament.