As he walked up the stairs to greet former President Donald Trump at the Trump Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán appeared to model himself after his host.
He was wearing a similar dark suit, white shirt, and regular tie, albeit orange rather than Trump’s trademark red. He flashed his same thumbs up like Trump when they posed for pictures.
But Orbán is not a populist disciple of Trump: He’s been in power before, he’s built a fence to keep out immigrants and refugees before, and more than a decade ago he introduced a new constitution that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. Life from the beginning of pregnancy, as well as other actions that have been criticized as violating human rights.
He was welcomed by the Trump administration and invited to the White House after being shunned in the Obama years. And now he’s got a place to speak for 30 minutes at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where the agenda says he’ll tell attendees “how to fight.”
But whatever the welcome he receives from the CPAC audience in Dallas, the situation at home is showing cracks.
Last week, he delivered a racist speech to Orbán in which a consultant he had worked with for 20 years victimized. “That’s why we’ve always fought,” Orban claimed of the Europeans. “We are willing to mingle with each other, but we do not want to become people of mixed races.”
Orbán has since said he is neither racist nor anti-Semitic, but his talk of racial purity set off alarm bells in his capital, Budapest, where Jews were persecuted and killed in World War II.
Rabbi Robert Frolich of the city’s historic Dohany Street Synagogue said Urban’s words were too close to home, particularly for the older members of his parish.
“Most of them are Holocaust survivors,” he told CNN. “They’re worried. They’ve heard this before and it didn’t end well.”
Orban has consolidated his power since becoming prime minister in 2010, having previously held the position from 1998 to 2002. He won his fourth consecutive term last April by a landslide, but Freedom House, the US-based democracy research organization, ranked the state Only “partly free.”
His economic policies have earned him favor, but with inflation rising, that is starting to change, according to economist Zoltan Bojaca.
“In the long run, yes, I think Urban remains popular but at this particular point I think more people are skeptical of him than ever before,” he said.
Data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Hungary has a low population and expects GDP to fall by 2.5%.
The International Monetary Fund said Hungary is too dependent on Russian gas and any supply shutdown could push the country into a deep recession.
In Budapest Central Market, opinions differ.
“Honestly, Victor Urban was not even loved in our country,” says juice seller David Horvath.
But Margarita Krajnik, a butcher, calls for difference. “Victor Urban does everything for his people,” she says. “He loves his people.”
Here, it’s a split decision. In Dallas, the welcome by American conservatives may be even stranger.