Posted November 17, 2020 9:28 am by

Hungary’s ‘Trump before Trump’ PM Orban faces US reset

Orban was an early and vocal Trump supporter © AFP / Attila KISBENEDEK

Budapest, Hungary, Nov 17 – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is bracing for tougher treatment from a Joe Biden-led administration in Washington after his all-in bet on a win for President Donald Trump backfired.

Orban’s hardline anti-immigration policies, such as building border fences, earned him praise from the President’s former advisor Steve Bannon who called him “Trump before Trump”.

The only EU leader to endorse Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election, Orban praised the President in 2017 for “thinking precisely as we do when he says ‘America First’”.

“We say the same: ‘Hungary first, and then everyone else’,” he said in a speech.

Orban also often called mainstream media reports “fake news”, a slur popularised by Trump. He applauded his hands-off approach to Hungary compared to the previous Obama administration, which was often more critical.

In September, Orban said Trump’s re-election would be best for Central Europe and boasted of receiving a phone call from the President in his kitchen in October.

During the US election campaign, pro-Orban media in Hungary portrayed Biden as a Communist and a Marxist.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto accused him of hypocrisy, raising corruption allegations about his son Hunter’s business activities in Ukraine, a line of attack promoted by the Trump administration.

“Orban calculated that political investment in Trump could have forged a real special relationship,” said Agoston Mraz, an analyst with the Nezopont think-tank.

But gambling all on a Trump win “damaged Orban’s reputation that he can read the future”, as he had managed in 2016, said Peter Kreko, head of the Political Capital think-tank.

Slow to congratulate Biden, Orban eventually offered congratulations on his “successful presidential campaign”.

For analysts, this acceptance of Biden’s win, abandoning Trump, signals a pragmatic approach ahead.

“There was no Plan B for a Biden win, but there will be a Way B,” said Mraz. “As a NATO partner there will always be a kind of relationship between Hungary and US”.

– ‘Thugs’ –

Orban’s critics were quick to predict that the shifting political wind would buffet the self-styled “illiberal” premier.

Biden’s win “can be the beginning of the end of the triumph of far-right populisms also in Europe”, said former European Council head Donald Tusk.

“Trump was good for the Orban government, President Biden will be good for Hungary,” said Budapest’s liberal mayor Gergely Karacsony.

During his campaign, Biden cited Hungary in his criticism of Trump’s foreign policy.

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