Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has voiced concerns that foreign interference, including that from the United States, may manipulate the national elections next year.
Orban made the comments in a recent interview with US television host Tucker Carlson. When asked if he was “worried that there will be international interference” in the election, Orban was unswerving.
“That will happen, we are not worried about it, we are prepared for it,” he said.
Orban has taken a hard line against immigration since the European migrant crisis saw more than one million refugees enter the continent from conflict zones and developing nations. Orban has charged his opponents with trying to undermine him in his fight to protect Christian values.
“Obviously, the international left will do everything that they can do, probably even more, to change the government here in Hungary,” Orban told Carlson.
The coming April 2022 election could shape up to be a nail biter. Opinion polls show a neck-and-neck race between Orban’s ruling right-wing Fidesz party side-by-side and a coalition of opposition parties.
As prime minister of Hungary for much of the past two decades, Orban has pushed through constitutional and legal changes seen by many as undermining the country’s democratic institutions. The courts have been stacked with Fidesz loyalists, free speech curtailed and the autonomy of the nation’s universities put in jeopardy.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has labeled Orban a “press freedom predator” for his role in muzzling the country’s media. Last month, the organisation released a list of 37 heads of state who, according to the RSF, “embody in a particularly drastic way the ruthless suppression of press freedom.” Orban is the only EU leader on the list.
In the same way, US think tank Freedom House downgraded the country from “free” to “partly free” in 2019. Orban remains unconcerned, and in 2014 declared his “new state” to be an “illiberal state.”
During his election campaign last year, US President Joe Biden cited Hungary in his criticism of the former Trump administration’s foreign policy.
“You see what’s happened in everything, from Belarus to Poland to Hungary, and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world… [Trump] embraces all the thugs in the world,” Biden told Fox News.
In contrast, Orban’s anti-immigration policies, including the building of border fences, earned him only praise from the former President Trump, whom Orban hailed as “a great friend of Hungary.” Trump, going even further, said the Hungarian Prime Minister and he “were like twins.”
During his interview with Tucker Carlson, Orban described Trump’s “America First” policy as “a very positive message here in Central Europe.”
“It means Hungary could be first as well,” he said.