BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary's ruling Fidesz party, losing ground to a far-right opposition group, said Wednesday it wants to debate the possibility of restoring the death penalty, abolished after the fall of communism in 1990 and banned in the European Union.
The issue was raised by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and leading Fidesz politicians after last week's murder of a 22-year-old tobacco shop attendant in the southern city of Kaposvar.
Orban said the death penalty needed to be "kept on the agenda." Antal Rogan, head of Fidesz's parliamentary faction, said on state radio that Hungary could propose a debate on the topic in the EU.
Fidesz lawmaker Lajos Kosa said he was opposed to the death penalty but the issue was worthy of discussion.
"Times and circumstances change, raising the issue in a democracy is surely not banned," Kosa said on broadcaster TV2. "We should talk about it."
The far-right Jobbik party, currently seen as Fidesz's strongest challenger, has consistently advocated restoring capital punishment.
"Most of us are in favor of the death penalty," Jobbik president Gabor Vona said on news channel Hir TV. "We should examine whether restoring the death penalty can be done in Hungary or the European Union in the 21st century."
Orban's position was criticized both home and abroad.
"I am extremely concerned by the populist trend in political discourse in Hungary," said Nils Muiznieks, the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe. "The idea of reintroducing the death penalty which has been raised by Prime Minister Orban ... runs contrary to the values that Europe stands for."
Martin Schulz, president of the European parliament, said he would discuss the issue by telephone with Orban.
Former Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's Democratic Coalition said Orban was strengthening Jobbik by raising the issue.