4th Feb 2023

Orbán to host populist VIPs ahead of election

  • Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: European Commission)
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Hungary is to host a congress of populist VIPs from around the globe in the run-up to prime minister Viktor Orbán re-election bid in April.

The event, on 25 and 26 March, is to see Orbán do speeches and photo-ops with right-wing US senators, Eduardo Bolsonaro (the son of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro), and Santiago Abascal (the head of Spanish far-right party Vox), among those participants already disclosed.

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  • Orbán (r) with Polish ruling party chief Jarosław Kaczyński (l) in Warsaw in December (Photo:

It is being organised by the Centre for Fundamental Rights, a pro-government think-tank in Budapest, and the American Conservative Union, a Washington-based political lobby group, which has been holding Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meetings around the world since the 1970s.

The Budapest congress will create a "connection point" for transatlantic conservatives to work together more closely in future, the Centre for Fundamental Rights' director, Miklos Szantho, told Hungary's MIT news agency on Wednesday (26 January).

Orbán, one week later on 3 April, will also try to see off opposition candidate Péter Márki-Zay in general elections.

The vote could be the closest fought one since Orbán took office 12 years ago and began to build an "illiberal democracy" - a far-right regime which took over the courts, media, civil society and other levers of power.

And which became an embarrassment to EU values on the world stage.

A survey in January saw Orbán's Fidesz party only four points ahead of Márki-Zay's United for Hungary bloc.

Meanwhile, the far-right congress in March was just one of US conservatives' endorsements of Orbán's rule.

US broadcaster Fox News sent its top anchor, Tucker Carlson, to Budapest for a show, aired on Wednesday, in which Orbán spoke of how George Soros, a Jewish US philanthropist, had a "secret grip" on Hungary and the media.

The antisemitic propaganda meme is one of the oldest in Orbán's repertoire.

And the far-right former US president, Donald Trump, threw his weight behind Orbán in January.

Orbán "truly loves his country", Trump said.

"He [Orbán] 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 added.

The Hungarian leader is also a darling of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

EU friends

He has fewer friends in the EU after Fidesz left the centre-right European People's Party and the EU Commission launched sanctions procedures and court cases to try to hold back Orbán's dismantling of Hungarian freedoms.

But he also got the red-carpet treatment at a far-right congress in Warsaw last December.

The event, hosted by Poland's answer to Orbán, ruling-party chief Jarosław Kaczyński, saw them meet with French far-right presidential contender Marine Le Pen and Spain's Abascal and other European nationalists.

They agreed on "closer cooperation of their parties in the European Parliament, including organising joint meetings and aligning votes", in a declaration at the time.

They also agreed to another summit in Spain this year.

But they failed to agree on forming a new EU Parliament political group.

Macron gloomy on rule of law after meeting Orbán

French president Emmanuel Macron said Hungary does not intend to settle the rule-of-law concerns by its general election next April, and will not have EU funds available until then.

Hungary will defy EU top court ruling on migration

Viktor Orbán also pledged to nominate his minister for family affairs, Katalin Novák, to be Hungary's first female president - locking in another public position before the April 2022 general election.

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"If he only goes there to talk about Russian investments in Hungary, that is a proof of non-European behaviour," an EU official said ahead of the Hungarian prime minister's visit to Moscow.


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