Former president Donald Trump on Monday made an unusual endorsement in a foreign election, offering his “Complete support” for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a right-wing populist leader accused of undermining the country’s democracy and moving toward autocracy during more than a decade in power.
Six opposition parties have coalesced around Hungarian opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay in a bid to oust Orban, who has championed “illiberal democracy” and become a pariah among European Union members, in parliamentary elections planned for the spring.© Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban holds an annual news conference in Budapest on Dec. 21.
“Viktor Orbán of Hungary truly loves his Country and wants safety for his people,” Trump said in a statement. “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!”
During the past decade, Fidesz, Orban’s political party, has introduced a new constitution that weakened judicial independence and human rights protections. Orban has also curbed the rights of journalists and expanded government control of the media.
In 2019, the Washington-based think tank Freedom House downgraded the status of Hungary’s democracy from “free” to “partly free” — a categorization shared by countries like Pakistan, Singapore, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
Nevertheless, Orban has become a darling of some on the right wing in the United States. Fox News host Tucker Carlson has praised Orban’s immigration policies, among others, and former Trump White House aide Stephen K. Bannon, has called him “the most significant guy on the scene right now.”
Since losing the presidency, Trump has remained active in politics in part by offering frequent endorsements of like-minded GOP candidates in races around the United States.
On Monday, for example, he also endorsed Derek Schmidt in the gubernatorial race in Kansas. Schmidt is currently the state’s attorney general.