Trump endorses Viktor Orban for re-election. What you need to know about Hungary's far-right PM

Orban has criticised multiculturalism, attacked Muslim migrants as a threat to Europe’s Christian identity and proclaimed that his government will strive to build a 'Christian democracy'

FP Staff January 04, 2022 17:58:00 IST
Trump endorses Viktor Orban for re-election. What you need to know about Hungary's far-right PM

A file photo of Viktor Orban. AP

Former US president Donald Trump on Monday endorsed Hungary’s right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

In a statement, Trump praised Orban  as a "strong leader" who "truly loves his country" and offered his "complete support".

This hardly comes as a surprise given the fact that Orban was the first leader of a European Union nation to endorse Trump's bid for the presidency and that Trump hosted Orban at a meeting in the Oval Office in 2019, where he said the Hungarian leader was "probably like me ... a bit controversial, but that's OK."

Orban also supported Trump’s candidacy against Joe Biden in 2020. During a campaign event in 2020, Biden referred to Orban as a "thug".

Relations between the two countries have soured since Biden’s victory and Hungary was the only EU member country to not receive an invitation to Biden’s virtual Summit for Democracy in December.

But who is the Hungarian leader facing a close parliamentary election this spring? And why is he controversial? Let’s take a closer look:

Champion of ‘illiberal democracy’

Orban, who has been in power since 2010, is a champion of what he calls “illiberal democracy.”

The chairman of Fidesz Party, Orban was re-elected for his third consecutive term and fourth overall term in 2018.

His Fidesz party and a small ally won 133 of 199 seats – a supermajority – in the legislature. He was elected to office with some of the Opposition parties boycotting the session.

Orban has repeatedly criticised liberal democracies, saying their era had ended in part because they have become incapable of “upholding Christian culture.”

He has criticised multiculturalism,  attacked Muslim migrants as a threat to Europe’s Christian identity and proclaimed that his government will strive to build a “Christian democracy.”

During the pandemic, Orban’s government brought in an emergency powers bill allowing it to implement resolutions without parliamentary approval - effectively a license to rule by decree. In June, it passed a law prohibiting the sharing of content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment with anyone under 18.

The government claims the purpose is to protect children from pedophiles, but it effectively outlawed discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and the media.

Poland’s conservative government has chipped away at the rights of women and gay people. A ruling last year by a government-controlled court that imposed a near-total ban on abortion triggered a wave of protests that defied a ban on mass gatherings during the virus outbreak.

Culture warrior on migration

His attempts to crack down on illegal immigration include the 2015 construction of a fence along the country’s southern border, refusing to accept asylum applications on Hungarian territory and pushing unauthorized migrants back across the border with Serbia.

Orban has claimed that mass migration into Europe would destroy the continent, saying thousands of paid activists, politicians and bureaucrats in Brussels were working to turn migration into a basic human right.

“I am convinced that in the end migration will lead to the dissolution of the nations and the states,” Orban had said. “The national languages will weaken, borders will fade, national cultures will be dissolved and a single open society will remain.”

The 54-year-old also said Hungary wanted to play a more prominent role in determining the EU’s future.

“We need the EU and the EU needs us,” Orban said. “For this reason, we are ready to take part as modelers of the changes that the EU cannot avoid even if it wants to.”

Orban’s government has conducted propaganda campaigns against Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros and groups he sponsors, accusing them of working to bring large numbers of migrants to Europe, a charge they reject.

Future uncertain

Orban and his ruling Fidesz party will face a coalition of six Opposition parties that have banded together in an effort to oust his right-wing government in elections expected in April. Recent polls suggest a close race.

The coalition’s candidate for prime minister, Peter Marki-Zay, has vowed to restore the country’s frayed alliances with the West, and accused Orban of betraying its allies in Europe, the United States and NATO.

With inputs from AP

Updated Date:

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