At conservative conference, Orban, Trump revive right-wing alliance

london — Former U.S. President Donald Trump said he is ready to renew a right-wing alliance with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban if he wins the presidential election in November.    

The presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee made the comments in an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Europe, which was held in Budapest on Thursday and Friday. 

The conference has long been a powerful force in right-wing American politics. The first European edition of the conference was held in Budapest in 2022 and has been an annual fixture since.    

Orban, the host and keynote speaker, received a standing ovation as he told the audience that conservatives had a chance to seize power in a major election year.  

“These elections coincide with major shifts in world political and geopolitical trends. The order of the world is changing, and we must take our cause to triumph in the midst of these changes. … Make America great again, make Europe great again! Go Donald Trump, go European sovereigntists!” Orban told a delighted crowd. 

He claimed that liberal forces were trying to silence the political right.  

“This is what they are doing with the conservatives in the progressive liberal European capitals. The same thing is happening in the United States when they want to remove [former] President Donald Trump from the ballot with court rulings,” he said. 

‘Battling to preserve our culture’

In a recorded address to the conference, Trump said he was ready to renew a conservative alliance with Orban.  

“Together we’re engaged in an epic struggle to liberate our nations from all of the sinister forces who want to destroy them,” Trump said. “Every day we’re battling to preserve our culture, protect our sovereignty, defend our way of life and uphold the timeless values of freedom, family and faith in Almighty God.”  

“As president I was proud to work with Prime Minister Orban — by the way, a great man — to advance the values and interests of our two nations,” Trump said.     

Orban’s critics, including most of his European Union allies, accuse him of overseeing a backsliding of democracy. The Hungarian prime minister sees an opportunity to hit back, said Zsolt Enyedi, a political analyst at Central European University in Budapest.   

“Orban has an ambition to change the discourse, so he’s not simply someone who is, who cares about staying in office, but he also wants to have an impact on the ideological climate, and he thinks that by sponsoring particular friendly parties, governments and intellectual clubs and initiatives, he will emerge as the leader of this conservative movement and that can counterbalance the fact that the mainstream in Europe and in liberal democracies hates him,” Enyedi told VOA. 

Another of the keynote speakers at the CPAC conference was the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, who is facing anti-government protests at home over a controversial proposed foreign agent law, which has been widely compared to similar Russian legislation. The EU has said the law would be incompatible with Georgia’s membership in the bloc. 

“(Kobakhidze) at the moment is turning his country more and more toward Russia, trying to in a way turn his back on the European Union, and interestingly, he is welcome at a club that is supposed to stand for the interest of the West. So, these kinds of strategic alliances are possible, because all speak the language of culture wars,” Enyedi said. 

Orban faces challenges at home

While right-wing parties are expected to do well in June’s European parliamentary elections, Orban’s Fidesz party is battling an economic crisis alongside a series of political scandals.  

The U.S. presidential election is set for November 5. Polls suggest a tight race between Trump and incumbent Joe Biden. 

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