Hungary's Orbán urges European conservatives, and Trump, toward election victories at CPAC event

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary's nationalist prime minister, addressing a conservative conference in Budapest on Thursday, said upcoming European and U.S. elections were a chance for right-wing forces to defeat the “progressive world spirit,” and encouraged former U.S. President Donald Trump to defend “his own truth” in his ongoing criminal trial.

Viktor Orbán, a right-wing populist and the European Union's longest-serving leader, told supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference Hungary that conservatives across the West, including himself and Trump, are under attack by a hegemonic liberal order.

EU elections in June and U.S. elections in November, Orbán said, will be a chance to usher in an “era of sovereignty” modeled on Hungary, which he called a “conservative island.”

“These elections coincide with major shifts in world political and geopolitical trends,” Orbán said. “The order of the world is changing, and we must usher our cause to triumph in the midst of these changes. Progressive liberals feel the danger. Replacing this era means replacing them."

Orbán's speech opened the third Hungarian iteration of CPAC, an event that this year features numerous far-right figures including U.S. media personality Jack Posobiec, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders.

The two-day CPAC event in Hungary underscores U.S. conservatives' growing embrace of the Hungarian leader, who has been accused of dismantling democratic institutions, overseeing widespread official corruption and cracking down on critical media.

Independent media outlets, including The Associated Press, were not granted accreditation to cover CPAC Hungary, and were encouraged to follow the event via a livestream. In an email, organizers said the conference is a “no woke zone,” and that coverage would be possible at “future events when and if your organization becomes significantly less woke.”

Orbán has depicted himself as a defender of European Christendom against Muslim migrants, progressives and the “LGBTQ lobby," and has faced backlash after comments that he opposes Europe becoming a “ mixed-race society.”

But on Thursday, Orbán accused “liberal progressive” governments of employing tactics that critics say he himself has used in Hungary, and suggested that the 34 felony counts against Trump for allegedly falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments were politically motivated.

“If necessary, they will use government agencies against us — as my American friends say, ‘weaponizing state institutions,'” Orbán said. “This happens to us Hungarians constantly in Brussels. This is what is happening to President Trump in America, and we encourage him to fight for his own truth not only in the elections, but also in the courts.”

Orbán, who is routinely hostile toward the EU, has sought for years to rally far-right European parties into a more cohesive political force in the bloc's legislature. As campaigning for the June 6-9 polls heats up, he has called for a fundamental change in EU leadership.

But he has racked up domestic political headaches in recent months after several senior officials, including the president and justice minister, were forced to resign over a scandal involving a presidential pardon to a man implicated in a child sexual abuse case.

Emerging from the scandal was political newcomer Peter Magyar, a former insider within Orbán's ruling Fidesz party who has shot to prominence through his allegations of entrenched corruption and cronyism among the country’s leaders.

Magyar this month mobilized around 100,000 anti-Orbán demonstrators in central Budapest, and announced his formation of a new party which will participate in EU elections.

Yet Orbán on Thursday struck an optimistic tone, telling CPAC attendees: “Make America great again, make Europe great again! Go Donald Trump, go European sovereigntists!”

“Let’s saddle up, put on our armor, head to the battlefield and begin the election battle!” he said.