Ten thousand Hungarians took to the streets of Budapest on Sunday to protest against far-right party Jobbik after one of its politicians caused national outrage by calling for a list of Jews to be drawn up.
The “mass demonstration against Nazism” rally, held outside the Hungarian Parliament, was an unprecedented show of national unity, bringing together speakers from the country’s governing and opposition parties.
Demonstrators’ placards demanded the resignation of Marton Gyongyosi, the leader of Jobbik’s foreign policy cabinet, who had said in a speech to parliament that it was “timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here”.
In reaction to Mr Gyongyosi’s statement, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told parliament on Monday: “As long as I am in this post, no one in Hungary can be harmed because of their faith, convictions or origin. I would like to make it clear that we Hungarians will protect our Jewish compatriots.”
Mr Gyongyosi has since apologised but has refused to step down.
The tone of Sunday’s protest was strongly nationalistic, with Hungarian flags dominating views of the crowd.
Antal Rogan, parliamentary faction leader of the centrist governing party Fidesz, told the crowd, “a genocide is always preceded by lists” and that he rejected “racist expressions” or the “belittling of the suffering and death of innocent millions”.
Leader of the opposition Socialist Party Attila Mesterhazy told the rally that “fascism is a virus, and Jobbik is a host”.
Many Jews protesting wore yellow stars. Over 500,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust.
Jobbik president Gabor Vona said that the rally was “political alarmism”.