Trump Endorses Hungary's Viktor Orban, Whom He Once Said Was 'Like Me,' for Re-Election

Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed controversial Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for re-election in this spring's parliamentary vote.

Trump once described Orban, whom critics have accused of fostering corruption and taking down democratic institutions, as being "probably like me...a bit controversial, but that's OK."

Orban was the first European Union nation leader to endorse Trump during his presidential run in 2016. Trump said in a statement that Orban was a "strong leader" who "truly loves his country."

"He 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 wrote in the statement, referencing his 2015 crackdown on immigration that included the building of a fence along the nation's southern border.

The effort also saw the country refuse to accept asylum applications inside Hungarian territory and sent unauthorized migrants back across its border with Serbia.

"He has my complete support and endorsement for reelection as Prime Minister!" Trump's statement said.

Orban, who supports a so-called "illiberal democracy," has also been accused of pushing back against judicial freedom from other branches of government and having a diverse set of media voices in the nation.

Trump invited Orban for a meeting in the Oval Office in 2019, when he said the Hungarian leader had "done a tremendous job in so many different ways," Politico reported.

Trump's support for Orban was not the only political race endorsement he announced on Monday. The former president also gave his backing to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, for the state's gubernatorial race.

Trump Meets With Orban
Former President Donald Trump invited Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for a meeting in the Oval Office in 2019, when he said the Hungarian leader had "done a tremendous job in so many different ways." Above, Trump shakes hands with Orban during a meeting in the Oval Office on May 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Orban, who has been in power since 2010, also supported Trump's candidacy against Biden in 2020. Relations between the two countries have soured since Biden's victory.

During a campaign event in 2020, Biden referred to Orban as a "thug," and Hungary was the only EU member country to not receive an invitation to Biden's virtual Summit for Democracy in December.

Orban and his ruling Fidesz party will face a coalition of six opposition parties that have banded together in an effort to oust his right-wing government in elections expected in April. Recent polls suggest a close race.

The coalition's candidate for prime minister, Peter Marki-Zay, has vowed to restore the country's frayed alliances with the West, and accused Orban of betraying its allies in Europe, the United States and NATO.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Update 1/3/22, 1:58 p.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information.

Orban Endorsement
Former U.S. President Donald Trump has endorsed controversial Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for re-election in this spring's parliamentary vote. Above, Orban during a press conference following a meeting of prime ministers of central Europe's informal body of cooperation, called the Visegrad Group (V4), in Budapest, Hungary, on November 4, 2021. Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images