Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party has held a pre-election rally in a former synagogue, much to the dismay of protesters from the country’s most prominent Jewish group, Mazsihisz.
The municipal building in Esztergom, north of Budapest, is now a community centre.
Demonstrators stood outside, waving star of David flags and calling party members “Nazis.” They said the location had been deliberately chosen to provoke them.
“This is a disgraceful event,” said Ágnes Drelyó, one of the protest’s organisers. “Shame on Gábor Vona and his party for using a former synagogue. We could not let the rally happen without saying anything. Any normal person who is morally OK, will not agree with what’s happening.”
But Jobbick party leader Gábor Vona disagreed.
“If we had cancelled it would have served as an admission of something to hide where the Jewish community is concerned,” he said. “We don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”
With the anti-fascist protesters outside under the watchful eye of the police, the forum got underway without interruption.
Vona, who was surrounded by black-jacketed party members during his speech, told euronews the rally wasn’t designed to provoke anyone.
However, Attila Magyar, euronews’ correspondent in Esztergom said the choice of location was intended to provoke:
“Last year the Jobbik party interrupted several parliamentary sessions. Now something similar has happened to its members. By choosing this location, the party has achieved its goal and received the attention it was seeking.”
Parliamentary elections will be held in Hungary in April.
The current government refused to comment on political rallies, adding that local authorities are responsible for municipal buildings.
When asked, Csilla Maronka, the director of the community centre in Esztergom said the hall is often leased for a variety of events to provide additional income.