Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán shakes hads with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a meeting in the Oval Office on May 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Critics Warn Orbán Visit Aimed at Tutoring Trump on 'How to Destroy a Democracy'

"If you want to see Trump's and the GOP's vision of America's future, just look at what Orbán's done to Hungary," said one observer.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is set for a Friday meeting with former U.S. President Donald Trump, an admirer—and potential emulator—of the far-right European leader as progressive voters in Europe, the United States, and dozens of other countries push back against a surging worldwide wave of "soft fascism."

Trump—who has all but officially secured the Republican presidential nomination—will welcome Orbán to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for what's being described as a "strategy session" ahead of upcoming elections in both the United States and European Union, where far-right parties are poised for major gains in the European Parliament.

"Orbán is the textbook example of why autocrats are often much more dangerous the second time in office."

Orbán spoke Thursday on a panel with the head of the Heritage Foundation, the influential conservative think tank that fawns over the prime minister's "European values," and his demonization of progressives and shared bogeymen including Hungarian American philanthropist George Soros. Critics have sounded the alarm on the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025, which has been described as a "far-right playbook for American authoritarianism" in a second Trump term.

Conspicuously absent from Orbán's agenda is any meeting with Biden administration officials, a rare situation given Hungary's NATO membership.

"While the present liberal administration in the U.S. may not actively seek to strengthen ties with Hungary, there is undeniably a growing interest in Hungary among U.S. conservatives," Balázs Orbán, the prime minister's unrelated political director, toldThe Guardian. "Prime Minister Orbán is visiting the United States to strengthen these relationships."

As Orbán—who has ruled Hungary for 14 years over four terms—consolidates his power by systematically eroding democratic institutions and strengthening his Fidesz party and its parliamentary supermajority, Trump and many Republicans have embraced his brand of populist autocracy. Orbán has spoken to adoring audiences at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) events in Texas and Budapest, the Hungarian capital where then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson interviewed him while relocating his show for a week.

"Orbán has become a role model for many American politicians, particularly those in the GOP's Sedition Caucus," Thom Hartmann wrote Thursday, referring to the 147 Republican U.S. lawmakers who tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in service of Trump's conspiracy theory that the contest was rigged by Democrats and the so-called "deep state."

Trump and many of his supporters are drawn to Orbán's open racism—which includes embraces of eugenics and the "great replacement" theory—xenophobia, homophobia, and Christian nationalism, as well as his aversion to helping Ukraine defend against Russian invasion. Like Trump, Orbán is also an oligarch, with a net worth estimated in the hundreds of millions of graft-boosted dollars, and under whose rule Hungary has been ranked as the E.U.'s most corrupt country.

"Orbán is well on his way to staying in office for the rest of his life."

"There is a great man, a great leader in Europe—Viktor Orbán," Trump—who has infamously praised some of the world's dictators—said in a speech last month. "He is a very great leader, a very strong man."

The admiration is mutual. Speaking last month, Orbán said that "we cannot interfere in other countries' elections, but we would very much like to see President Donald Trump return to the White House and make peace here in the eastern half of Europe. It is time for another 'Make America Great Again' presidency in the United States."

The European Parliament has condemned Orbán's rule as less than democratic, calling his government a "hybrid regime of electoral autocracy." Others have called it a form of "soft fascism." Orbán calls it "illiberal democracy," touting its universal appeal to international conservatives, including U.S. Republicans and their fixation on "owning the libs."

"Hungary is actually an incubator where experiments are done on the future of conservative policies," Orbán said at CPAC Budapest. "Hungary is the place where we didn't just talk about defeating the progressives and liberals and causing a conservative Christian political turn, but we actually did it."

While there has been some recent pushback—most notably in Brazil, Colombia, and Chile—observers are warning of the dangers of a still-ascendant right as voters prepare to head to the polls this year in the E.U. and in countries from Mexico and India to Indonesia and the United States.

In the case of the U.S., Protect Democracy editor Amanda Carpenter warned this week that "Orbán is the textbook example of why autocrats are often much more dangerous the second time in office."

"They learn from their mistakes, shortcomings, and—above all—the things that caused them to lose power previously. Orbán is well on his way to staying in office for the rest of his life," Carpenter added. "On that too Trump aims to do the same."

Hartmann wonders whether Orbán is "going to be instructing Trump in how to destroy a democracy," having "already pulled it off in Hungary."

"If you want to see Trump's and the GOP's vision of America's future, just look at what Orbán's done to Hungary," he added. "Forewarned is forearmed. Spread the word."

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