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Hungary: Referendum on Naming Park After Hitler Ally Fails

Residents of a small Hungarian town have failed to stop a park from taking on the name of the country's Nazi-allied wartime leader.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/7/2013, 5:43 AM

Supporters of the Hungarian radical right-wing party Jobbik
Supporters of the Hungarian radical right-wing party Jobbik
Reuters

Residents of a small Hungarian town have failed to stop a park from taking on the name of the country's Nazi-allied wartime leader, after too few voters turned out for a Sunday referendum, AFP reports.

The park in Gyomro, on the outskirts of Budapest, was named after Miklos Horthy last year following a motion by the far-right nationalist Jobbik party, the third-largest in parliament.

Angry locals forced the referendum, but it was declared invalid after only 18 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, the state news agency MTI reported.

A large majority of those who did vote, however, were against the Horthy name change, reported AFP.

Horthy, an autocrat who ruled from 1920 to 1944 when he was deposed by Nazi Germany, passed anti-Jewish laws, brought the country into an uneasy alliance with Hitler and was in charge when its Jews began being deported to death camps.

The late leader is revered by some as a hero after a short-lived communist revolution in 1919 and the traumatic loss of two-thirds of its territory at the 1920 Trianon Peace Treaty.

Hungary's communist rulers between 1948 and 1989 considered Horthy a fascist, but far-right groups and public figures have since achieved something of a historical rehabilitation.

At the same time, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been accused of pandering to nationalists and of stoking anti-Semitism, for example by adding a number of wartime authors with associations to fascism to the school curriculum.

In 2012, Nobel peace laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel returned Hungary's highest state honor because of what he called a "whitewashing" of history in the European Union member state.

Last year, the government passed a law stipulating that from January 1, public areas could not be named after historical figures with associations to dictatorships. It said the legislation was primarily aimed at communist-era figures.

The neo-Nazi Jobbik recently made headlines for several anti-Semitic statements by its officials. In late November, a far-right deputy from the party called publicly for the resignation of a fellow MP who claimed to have Israeli citizenship.

At a press conference, deputy Elod Novak called for the resignation of Katalin Ertsey, of the small opposition party LMP, saying that it was unacceptable that she had kept her dual Hungarian-Israeli citizenship secret.

He later told news portal Index, "Israel has more deputies in the Hungarian parliament than they have in the Israeli Knesset."

The comments came after another member of Jobbik In released a statement saying that a list should be compiled of all of the Jewish members of parliament and government.

Marton Gyongyosi said that government officials and parliamentarians of Jewish origin had unduly influenced Hungary’s policy towards the situation in Israel and Gaza.

The remarks were condemned by the Hungarian government which said it "is opposed to all forms or expressions of extremism, racist or anti-Semitic, and does everything in its power to combat it."

Last month, a now independent lawmaker who was formerly a member of Jobbik torched an Israeli flag during an anti-Jewish protest in the capital, Budapest.