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article imageOp-Ed: Thousands protest against the far right in Hungary

By Raluca Besliu     Dec 2, 2012 in Politics
On Sunday, around 10,000 Hungarians demonstrated on the streets of Budapest against the far-right opposition party, Jobbik, after one of its representatives called for a list of Jews to be drawn up, thus sparking public outrage.
In a debate regarding the Gaza Strip conflict, Jobbik’s Marton Gyongyosi called on the government to draw up a list of people of Jewish ancestry in Hungary who represented a national security threat. When his remark was met with outrage, the representative apologized and claimed his remarks had been misunderstood, as he had only been referring to Hungarians with Israeli passports in the government and parliament.
In immediate response to Gyongyosi’s remarks, on Tuesday, the government’s spokesman emphasized that the government strictly rejects extremist, racist, anti-Semitic opinions of any kind and is, in fact, striving to suppress them.
At the Sunday rally, leaders from the opposition party and government came together in a show of unity to condemn what many of them consider an inexcusable remark and to demand the resignation of Gyongyosi. The thousands of Hungarians protesters asked the politicians present at the rally to take immediate action against the far right.
Reacting to this protest against him, Gyongyosi has simply dismissed it as "political alarmism,” stemming from Jobbik’s opponents' despair over his party’s increasing popularity, and emphasized that he would not be resigning over his statements.
Holding 47 seats in the 386-seat parliament won during the 2010 election, Jobbik has become the third strongest political party in Hungary. The party has enjoyed a rapid rise to power since its creation in 2003. Some analysts predict that the radical party, which vilifies Jews and the Roma minority, will retain its influence in a Hungary hit by recession and might hold the balance of power between the ruling party and left-wing opposition in the 2014 elections.
The protest in Hungary could mark the first of many instances in European countries where opposing parties unite alongside parts of the population in a common fight against far-right parties. Far right parties have grown in recent years and continue to gain political power and influence over public opinion. Only if traditional parties demonstrate a unified opposition to the far-right parties can the latter's influence be stopped. Their opposition should be coupled with a strong condemnation of extremist and racist remarks, as the Hungarian government did on Tuesday when rejecting the Jobbik representative’s statements. These types of statements should not be tolerated, especially not when coming from public figures, such as politicians, who are in a position to influence and mold public opinion. Instigating hate against particular groups or humiliating them should not be acceptable as a legitimate means of gaining votes and support, as it leads to social exclusion and hate, if not to outright instances of violence against the targeted groups. Adopting stronger European-level legislation on hate speech could play a significant role in ending the rising influence of far-right parties, by depriving them of or, at least, limiting one of their key strategies in attracting followers, which is spreading hate.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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