The Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán has called for Donald Trump’s return to office, claiming their shared brand of hard-right populism is on the rise around the world, in a speech to US Republicans and their European allies in Budapest.
Orbán was addressing the second annual meeting of the US Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC) in the Hungarian capital, aimed at cementing radical rightwing ties across the Atlantic. He said that conservatives have “occupied big European sanctuaries”, which he listed as Budapest, Warsaw, Rome and Jerusalem. He added that Vienna “is also not hopeless” .
He noted that Washington and Brussels were still in the grip of liberalism, which he described as a “virus that will atomize and disintegrate our nations”.
The Orbán government has made tentative approaches to open contacts with Ron DeSantis, with the Hungarian president, Katalin Novák, flying to meet the Florida governor in Tallahassee in March, but at Thursday’s CPAC conference it was overwhelmingly Trumpist, and Orbán threw his full-throated support behind the former US president.
He said: “I’m sure if President Trump would be the president, there would be no war in Ukraine and Europe. Come back, Mr President. Make America great again and bring us peace.”
The prime minister, who last year won his fourth consecutive term in office, portrayed Hungary’s self-described “illiberal Christian democracy” – widely criticised for its constraints on media and academic freedom, and for its anti-LGBTQ+ legislation – as a model for the world.
“Hungary is an incubator where the conservative policies of the future are being tested,” Orbán said.
The conference site, a modernist building called the Bálna, or whale, was festooned with messages echoing that theme. A gateway on the main path to the entrance declared it a “no-woke zone”. Inside, a huge map of Hungary was emblazoned with the words: “No country for woke men.”
Some guests arrived in T-shirts that displayed Orbán and Trump together as “peacemakers” and “saviors of the world”. The event’s 2023 motto was “United we stand”.
On its first day, the CPAC conference watched a 25-second video greeting from Tucker Carlson, a keen admirer of Orbán, which was clearly recorded before he was fired by Fox News last week.
“I wish I was there in Budapest. If I ever get fired, have some time, and can leave, I’ll be there with you,” Carlson promised.
Most independent journalists were refused accreditation for the event, in a country where the International Press Institute has said media freedom “remains suffocated”. During the Covid outbreak, Orbán’s government passed a law imposing prison sentences of up to five years for spreading disinformation. Hungarian journalists say the law was being used to deny them access to information, and on occasion to threaten them.
The CPAC chair, Matt Schlapp, said Hungary was a model for dealing with journalists. He said that he told the event’s Hungarian organisers his team “would determine who a journalist is”, adding that was “quite revolutionary for the Americans, because in America a journalist tells them who is a journalist and we treat them like a journalist”.
Schlapp said that in Hungary journalists had to follow certain rules about writing the truth and presenting “both sides” of a story.
Orbán could point to a widening of the radical right coalition this year, with the presence of the Georgian prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, who praised his Hungarian counterpart as “far-sighted” and stressed his party Georgian Dream’s commitment to prioritising “family values” over “LGBTQ propaganda”.
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