The World Jewish Congress (WJC) this week urged Hungary to crack down on the far-right Jobbik party and called on governments in Europe to consider banning neo-Nazi parties threatening democracy and minority rights.
The WJC plenary assembly, held in the Hungarian capital rather than Jerusalem to highlight rising anti-Semitism in Hungary, passed a resolution saying Budapest must recognise that Jobbik poses “a fundamental threat to Hungary’s democracy”.
“Decisive action by all democratic forces against these contemporary expressions of extremism must now be taken,” it said, adding a request that Prime Minister Viktor Orban sign an international declaration on combating anti-Semitism.
Jobbik, which openly vilifies Hungary’s Roma minority and has accused Jews of buying up property to take over Hungary, has been a central issue at the three-day WJC assembly, which brought together Jewish leaders from about 100 countries.
Orban addressed the opening session of the assembly on Sunday evening, issuing a strong denunciation of anti-Semitism, but avoiding any mention of Jobbik.
“He missed a golden opportunity,” said WJC president Ronald Lauder, who while introducing Orban had specifically asked him to denounce the populist party.
Jobbik, which won 17% of the vote in the 2010 election and has 43 of the 368 seats in parliament, held an “anti-Zionist and anti-Bolshevik” rally in Budapest to protest against the WJC meeting being held in the Hungarian capital.
Orban’s Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority in parliament, but has lost ground in opinion polls since it took power in 2010. It still has a strong opinion poll lead over opposition parties however, and has a good chance of winning this year’s election.
Support for Jobbik meanwhile has hovered around 10% this year, but around half of Hungarian voters are undecided.
Robin Shepherd, author of a study for the WJC on neo-Nazi parties in Europe, told the assembly Fidesz was not anti-Semitic, but it competed with Jobbik for votes among nationalists frustrated by the economic crisis and resentful of foreign influence in Hungary.
“If Orban goes too hard against Jobbik, he’s worried he won’t be able to scoop up Jobbik’s voters,” he said.
The assembly also debated the rise of far-right parties such as Golden Dawn in Greece, which came from nowhere to win about 7% in elections there last year amid a deep economic crisis.