Publicly, Hungary PM Orbán Predicts Trump Win. Privately, Prepares For Loss
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Europe's populists have few friends within the European Union, but they have found a natural ally in President Trump, who shares their disdain for immigration, the independent media and dissent. Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, leads those European populists. He calls Trump a friend and predicts the president will be reelected. But Orban's also preparing for a world without him. Joanna Kakissis has this story.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Viktor Orban was the only European Union leader who endorsed Donald Trump back in 2016. Last year, the president invited Orban to the White House and called him a great leader.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Probably, like me, a little bit controversial, but that's OK. That's OK.
KAKISSIS: Orban says he wants to make Hungary great again. He calls migrants Muslim invaders.
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PRIME MINISTER VIKTOR ORBAN: We are proud to stand together with the United States on fighting against illegal migration, on terrorism and to protect the Christian communities all around the world.
KAKISSIS: Previous U.S. administrations shunned Hungary because of Orban's crackdown on civil society. Hungary receives much more economic support from the EU than the U.S., but the EU is investigating Hungary and the pro-Trump government of Poland for EU rule of law violations. Political scientist Ivan Krastev says the two countries use their Trump connection as a leverage against Brussels.
IVAN KRASTEV: Both Hungary and Poland were making clearly important to Brussels that they have an alternative - particularly when it comes to security, but also in economic relations - because nobody's interested in a fight with the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting, unintelligible).
KAKISSIS: That has left Orban's critics in Hungary feeling like they're shouting into the void. Katalin Hubai (ph), a teacher in Budapest, often joins protests against the government's crackdown on academic freedom. She says she's fighting for what she considers European values.
KATALIN HUBAI: Like tolerance, diversity and the fact that we should teach students to think with empathy and gain as much information about the world around them before they make judgments.
KAKISSIS: She sees Trump's support making Orban stronger. So do Orban's fans like retirees Erzsebet (ph) and Tibor Horvath (ph).
ERZSEBET HORVATH: (Speaking Hungarian).
KAKISSIS: Erzsebet Horvath says Orban is protecting Hungarian values by keeping out migrants...
TIBOR HORVATH: (Speaking Hungarian).
KAKISSIS: ...While her husband Tibor says Orban is the only leader who has improved the lives of Hungarians. They hope Trump's reelected. Joe Biden recently singled out European nationalists when slamming Trump's foreign policy.
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JOE BIDEN: You see what's happened in everything from Belarus to Poland to Hungary and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world. This president embraces all the thugs in the world.
KAKISSIS: The remark angered Orban, who accused Democrats of moral imperialism. Krastev, the political scientist, says Orban is already casting Biden as part of the liberal elite he's vilified for years.
KRASTEV: He knows that he has a lot to lose, so he already positions himself for the world without Trump.
KAKISSIS: And a world where European populists could lose their loudest ally.
For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis.
(SOUNDBITE OF BACAO RHYTHM AND STEEL BAND'S "THE SERPENT'S MOUTH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.