Trump endorses Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orban for reelection

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Donald Trump has endorsed the autocratic prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, ahead of his reelection fight later this spring.

“Viktor Orbán of Hungary truly loves his country and wants safety for his people,” the former president said in a statement on Monday. “He has done a powerful and wonderful job in protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs, trade, and should be allowed to continue to do so in the upcoming election. He is a strong leader and respected by all. He has my complete support and endorsement for reelection as prime minister!”

Mr Orban is a far-right nationalist who has gone against many of America’s closest European allies and who has taken steps to assert control over the media and legal system, leading many to worry about the state of Hungarian democracy.

Mr Trump has endorsed other world leaders who have been accused of eroding democratic ideals and institutions, such as when he supported right-wing Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro in October 2019 as wildfires wreaked havoc in the Amazon rainforest.

“President Jair Bolsonaro and I have become great friends over the past few years. He fights hard for, and loves, the people of Brazil—Just like I do for the people of the United States,” Mr Trump said in a statement in October of 2021 as Mr Bolsonaro was confronting calls that he face criminal charges for his handling of the pandemic.

“Brazil is lucky to have a man such as Jair Bolsonaro working for them,” Mr Trump added. “He is a great President and will never let the people of his great country down!”

President Joe Biden on the other hand has rebuffed Mr Orban, with Hungary being the only European Union member state not invited to his virtual Summit for Democracy last month.

Six parties have united to try to remove Mr Orban from power, with opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay heading up the effort.

Mr Orban’s party Fidesz has during the last ten years introduced a new constitution that has diminished protections for human rights and damaged the independence of the courts.

Think tank Freedom House changed the status of Hungarian democracy from “free” to “partly free” in 2019. Countries sharing that classification includes Pakistan, Singapore, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.

Mr Orban has become a favourite foreign leader among many on the right in the US, with Fox News host Tucker Carlson boosting his harsh immigration policies. Former Trump White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has called Mr Orban “the most significant guy on the scene right now”.

Fidesz has instituted new election laws to benefit the party and the government has also rewritten school textbooks.

Mr Carlson spent a week broadcasting from the capital of Budapest in the autumn of 2021, saying that the country had “a lot of lessons for the rest of us”. Mr Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence also visited the country last year to attend a conference focused on conservative values. The American Conservative Union has announced plans to hold a conference in the country this year, calling it CPAC Hungary.

Mr Orban, who has been leading Hungary since 2010 after also having held the post between 1998 and 2000, endorsed Mr Trump in the summer of 2016. Mr Trump invited Mr Orban for an Oval Office meeting in 2019 after previous US presidents declined to do so.

Mr Trump said the Hungarian leader was “probably, like me, a little bit controversial, but that’s okay”.

Mr Orban endorsed Mr Trump again in 2020 and Mr Trump is now returning the favour for the spring 2022 Hungarian election.