Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he is "prepared" for outside "interference," including from the United States, in an election next year that could chip away at the wide majority his ruling Fidesz party currently enjoys in parliament.
In power since 2010 and increasingly fiery in his national populist rhetoric, Orban has faced accusations from Brussels of democratic backsliding, cronyism, and excessive media consolidation to benefit allies.
"That will happen," Orban said in an interview with U.S. Fox News host Tucker Carlson of meddling in the vote. "We are not worried about it. We are prepared for it."
Carlson has been among the most prominent critics in the United States of immigration and has praised Orban amid criticism in the U.S. press that he’s flirting with an authoritarian leader.
Orban has taken a hard line against immigration since a European migrant crisis that saw well over 1 million refugees pour into the continent from conflict zones and other hardship countries.
"Obviously, the international left will do everything that they can do, probably even more, to change the government here in Hungary,” Orban, who describes himself as a defender of traditional Christian values, told Carlson.
The April 2022 election could shape up to be a tight race, with opinion polls showing Orban's Fidesz party neck-and-neck with a coalition of opposition parties.
Orban has led Hungary as prime minister for much of the past two decades, including around its NATO and EU membership. But he has turned increasingly skeptical of the European Union publicly.
Last month, French media watchdog Reporters Without Borders added Orban to its annual list of “enemies of press freedoms."
Freedom House has said Hungry can no longer be considered a democracy due to Orban’s continued assaults on democratic institutions.
During his election campaign last year against Republican incumbent Donald Trump, U.S. President Joe Biden cited Hungary in his criticism of Trump's policies, comparing it to “totalitarian regimes.”
"You see what's happened in everything from Belarus to Poland to Hungary, and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world.... This president [Trump] embraces all the thugs in the world," Biden said in a town-hall meeting.
Orban had endorsed Trump’s reelection bid, saying his rival Democrats have forced a “moral imperialism.”
Asked if he expects the Biden administration to try to "prevent" his reelection, Orban said that, "sooner or later, the Americans will realize that issues in Hungary must be decided by the Hungarians.”
It is unclear what kind of "interference" he is expecting.
Orban's government has been increasingly friendly with Moscow despite EU and U.S. sanctions over a Ukrainian invasion, alleged assassinations at home and abroad, and what Western intelligence agencies say is frequent meddling in foreign elections.
"It is better even for the leftist liberal government in the U.S. to have a good partner that is conservative, Christian, democratic, and supported long-term by the Hungarian people," Orban told Carlson.
He suggested that shifting policies out of Washington were "creating destabilization and uncertainty."
"A not-loved-but-stable partner is better than an uncertain new one," Orban said. "I hope the Americans will understand that."
Orban said Trump's "America first" policy was "a very positive message here in Central Europe.... It means Hungary could be first as well."