A photo depicting the deputy mayor of Ózd has recently surfaced, in which the politician of opposition Jobbik is making what appears to be a Nazi salute. He claims that the picture is a simple misunderstanding, and the photo has simply been captured at an unfortunate moment. Since then, however, most parties of the unified opposition that had backed him in the opposition primaries have distanced themselves from him and withdrawn their support.
Deputy mayor Péter Barnabás Farkas visited Chorzów, the Polish twin town of Ózd in 2018. As part of his trip, he also visited the Silesian Museum in Katowice, which displays the past of the historic region. As part of the exhibition, the museum has a section of walls with anti-Semitic graffiti.
Farkas was photographed in front of this building, making a very ambiguous and questionable arm gesture.
photo via atv.hu
Leftist news site Atv.hu, which was the first to report the story last Wednesday, contacted the deputy mayor. In his response, although Farkas admitted the photo was genuine, he denied any wrongdoing.
The deputy mayor claimed he was just waving, to bring the other members of his group closer for a group photo.
My hand gesture was not a Nazi salute, but a snapshot of this [waving] gesture, and it is vile slander to say otherwise,”
he said. Farkas added that he has never held or advocated for extremist views.
Despite the claims of the deputy mayor of Ózd, the news provoked a strong reaction from many.
First, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) released a statement last week calling on the deputy mayor to visit the Holocaust Documentation Center and take a stand against extremism.
“If he refuses to do so, it clearly means that he has a need for a racist, anti-Semitic voter base,” the Mazsihisz claimed.
Farkas responded to the statement on Facebook, and wrote that he would be happy to accept the invitation. In his post he added, among other things, that the invitation of the Jewish organization was “exemplary in Hungarian public life, as such a gesture is not usually made in Hungary.”
“I consider it an honor and a great pleasure to accept this invitation, not only in the context of the unfortunate situation that has now caused such a stir, but also as a former museum director, since it was for this reason that I visited the museum in Poland where the unfortunate picture was taken,” he wrote.
Opposition parties withdraw their support
However, him reacting positively to the Jewish Organization’s invitation did not convince the other opposition parties.
Several parties reacted harshly to the incident and withdrew their support from the politician, who in addition to being deputy mayor of Ózd, is also one of the opposition candidates in the running in the 3rd constituency of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county. In the opposition primaries, besides Jobbik, he was running with the support of DK, LMP, Momentum, and MMM in the district.
Momentum was the first to announce that they would no longer support the politician accused of extremism. According to the party’s Thursday statement, it “does not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism, so we cannot share values with someone who uses such symbols.”
Socialist MSZP, which is launching its own candidate in the primary election in the district, reacted in a similar way. In a statement, they said that “given the context and the circumstances, the situation is clear: what we are seeing is a Nazi salute.”
They added: “Anyone who holds anti-Semitic views and incites hatred against minorities has no place in Hungarian politics, media, or public office.”
On Saturday, LMP also announced that they would no longer stand by the politician.
In addition to the parties, one of the candidates of the united opposition for prime minister also made it clear that the Jobbik politician must not be supported. In an online discussion, Gergely Karácsony (Párbeszéd) said that “the candidate of Jobbik in Ózd cannot be a candidate.” “This is out of the line, this should be considered out of line,” added Karácsony.
However, Jobbik is still backing its politician, as well as leftist DK.
As the primaries are already underway, the withdrawal of support is only a matter of principle, as the party logos on the ballot papers cannot be removed after the fact. However, the scandal that has just emerged may well have a significant impact on the final result.
Featured photo via Péter Barnabás Farkas’s Facebook page