By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Former U.S. President Donald Trump has endorsed Viktor Orban in Hungary’s upcoming parliamentary elections, describing the nationalist prime minister as a “strong leader.”
In a statement on January 3, Trump wrote that the Hungarian leader has his “Complete support and Endorsement” in elections expected in April.
Orban “has done a powerful and wonderful job protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs, trade and should be allowed to continue to do so in the upcoming Election.”
It is highly unusual for a former or sitting U.S. president to publicly endorse candidates in foreign elections.
Orban’s critics say his ruling Fidesz party has dismantled democratic institutions in Hungary, while trashing judicial independence and controlling the media.
He has also stepped up an anti-LGBT campaign as part of an ongoing drive to depict itself as the guardian of Christian values against Western liberalism that also includes a hard-line anti-immigration policy.
In 2016, Orban was the first leader of a European Union nation to endorse Trump’s bid for the presidency. Trump later hosted Orban at the White House in 2019.
Orban also supported Trump’s candidacy against President Joe Biden in 2020.
Hungary was the only EU member state to not receive an invitation to Biden’s virtual Summit for Democracy in December.
Orban, who has been in power since 2010, faces a challenge to his rule with multiple opposition parties agreeing to unite behind one candidate for the first time.
Recent polls suggest a close race against the coalition’s candidate for prime minister, Peter Marki-Zay.