Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a right-wing, anti-LGBTQ populist with authoritarian tendencies who has weakened political and civil rights while in office, in the latter’s bid for re-election.
“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!”
Orbán, who has been prime minister since 2010, is expected to face a serious challenge in the upcoming parliamentary elections, which will be scheduled for either April or May.
Recently, six opposition parties — from both the left and the right — announced they would unite in an effort to unseat Orbán and his ruling Fidesz party by backing independent Péter Márki-Zay, who describes himself as a conservative Catholic, for prime minister and deciding to back a single joint candidate against Fidesz politicians in each of the country’s 106 electoral districts, reports The Associated Press.
“The Hungarian people have their first real chance in a decade to shake off the corrupt and dishonest rule of Fidesz,” the parties said in a joint statement.
Recent polls suggest that a joint strategy might be successful in defeating Fidesz, as the six parties, together, hold a four-point advantage over Fidesz. A poll released last month showed the ruling party’s approval rating mired in the 30s, even though it remains the most popular single party in Hungary and Orbán is the longest-serving Hungarian prime minister in history, including his brief term from 1998 to 2002.
As prime minister, the populist Orbán has championed “illiberal democracy” and has taken actions to curb civil rights, earning him contempt from other European Union members. He has sought to silence journalists, attacking the free press as a corrupt institution hostile to traditional values, has expanded government control of the media, has weakened the independence of the federal judiciary, and has walked back human rights protections, particularly for members of the LGBTQ community, according to The Washington Post.
Critics of the government have also accused Fidesz of introducing changes to Hungary’s election laws to give its candidates an unfair advantage in elections. International observers described Hungary’s 2014 parliamentary elections as “free but not fair,” and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported after the 2018 elections that “intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing” had hindered voters’ ability to make a fully informed choice.
The opposition parties have vowed to eliminate government corruption, restore media freedom, author a new constitution and amend election laws to undo some of the actions Fidesz has taken to consolidate power.
Márki-Zay, while conservative, has also promised to scrap homophobic laws, such as the country’s anti-LGBTQ “propaganda” law, which prohibits dissemination of or discussions about LGBTQ-related content, including sexual education as well as depictions of homosexuality or gender-nonconformity, to those younger than 18. The law has since been declared a violation of human rights by the Venice Commission, which advises the Council of Europe on constitutional matters.
Orbán, who has become beloved by the right wing in the United States for his harsh anti-immigration policies, autocratic tendencies, and opposition to cultural liberalism, recently pushed his party to approve four questions as part of a national referendum, to be held concurrently with the country’s parliamentary elections.
The questions will ask voters whether they support lessons dealing with sexual orientation for minors in public schools without parental consent; whether they back the “promotion” of gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors; whether they support “unrestricted sexual media content for minors that affects their development”; and the “display of gender-sensitive media content to minors.”
Fidesz politicians are hoping to exploit the referendum and the country’s relative cultural conservatism by attacking LGBTQ rights in order to encourage conservative voters to back anti-gay candidates running under the party’s banner.
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