Gyongyos, Hungary -- While running for a parliamentary seat in Hungary's April elections, far-right candidate Gabor Vona made one campaign promise that was controversial even by his standards: If voted into parliament, the 31-year-old extremist would report for duty wearing the insignia of his outlawed paramilitary organization, the "Hungarian Guard" -- a taboo symbol that, with its ancient, red-and-white-striped emblem, bears a striking resemblance to the flag of Hungary's Nazi-era fascist party, Arrow Cross.
The suggestion was intolerable to many Hungarians. Arrow Cross's brief period of political dominance, during which the party murdered thousands of Hungarian Jews and shipped many tens of thousands more to concentration camps outside the country, is still a painful subject. More to the point, the insignia itself is illegal. Vona's announcement directly flouted a court decision banning the Hungarian Guard, and it provoked the outgoing Hungarian prime minister into asking the Justice Ministry to investigate.
But the controversy appeared only to reinforce the popularity of Vona's far-right, Web-savvy Jobbik party, which went on to win a stunning 16.7 percent of the vote -- the best performance of any hypernationalist party in post-communist Eastern Europe. And Vona kept his word: At the May 14 inauguration, he took off his suit jacket to reveal a black vest with the Hungarian Guard's emblem.
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