Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who is seeking reelection. The right-wing prime minister is often at odds with other Western leaders.
Orban, in power since 2010, is preparing for parliamentary elections in April or May, with his ruling Fidesz party facing six opposition parties.
Trump said in a statement that Orban “truly loves his country and wants safety for his people. 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.”
Trump characterized Orban as “a strong leader and respected by all. He has my complete support and endorsement for re-election as prime minister!”
Orban endorsed Trump in both his presidential campaigns, in 2016 and 2020, and Trump granted him an Oval Office visit at the White House in 2019.
At the time, Trump said the Hungarian leader had “done a tremendous job in so many different ways,” while acknowledging that he was “probably like me, a little bit controversial. But that’s OK.”
Unlike Trump, U.S. President Joe Biden has kept Orban at arm’s length. At Biden’s virtual Summit for Democracy last month, Hungary was the only European Union member state that was not extended an invitation.
Trump’s endorsement of Orban marks the second time the former U.S. president has backed a populist foreign leader whom critics accuse of undermining democratic principles.
Last year, Trump voiced his support for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s reelection bid.
Trump is contemplating another run for the White House in 2024.
Throughout his presidency, Trump often boasted of his rapport with authoritarian and strongman leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Last month, Trump reflected on his relations with other national leaders, saying, “The ones I did the best with were the tyrants.”
Orban has boasted of turning his country into an “illiberal state.” He has weakened Hungary’s democratic and independent institutions, limited press freedoms and changed the composition of the judiciary.
While some European leaders have expressed their concerns about Orban’s rule, American conservatives have shown their support.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson broadcast his evening show from Budapest for a week, calling Hungary a nation “with a lot of lessons for the rest of us.” Former Vice President Mike Pence attended a Hungarian conference on conservative values and the American Conservative Union has been promoting plans for a 2022 conference there.