As CPAC prepares to welcome Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, his domestic politics are under new scrutiny

He wore a similar dark suit, a white shirt and a plain tie, albeit orange rather than Trump’s signature red. I gave the same thumbs up Trump did when they posed for photos.

But Orban is not a populist follower of Trump: he was in power before, he built a fence to keep migrants and refugees out, and more than a decade ago he introduced to the new constitution which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman and life as beginning at conception, as well as other measures which have been criticized as violating human rights.

But regardless of the reception he’s getting from CPAC audiences in Dallas, the situation at home is showing cracks.

A Orban’s racist speech last week he lost an adviser who had worked with him for 20 years. “That’s why we always fought,” Orban told the Europeans. “We are ready to mix with each other, but we don’t want to become mixed-race people.”

Orban has since said he is neither a racist nor an anti-Semite, but his speech about racial purity set off alarm bells in his capital, Budapest, where Jews were persecuted and murdered during World War II.

Rabbi Robert Frolich of the city’s historic Dohany Street Synagogue said Orban’s words hit too close to home, especially for the older members of his congregation.

“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 power since becoming prime minister in 2010, having held the post from 1998 to 2002. He won his fourth consecutive term in April in a landslide, but Freedom House, the US-based democracy research organization, rates the country only “partially free”.

His economic policies have won him support, but with rising inflation that is starting to change, according to economist Zoltan Pogatsa.

“Longer term, yes, I think Orban remains popular, but right now I think more people are skeptical of him than ever before,” he said.

Data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that Hungary has a shrinking population and expects its GDP to decline by 2.5%.
Hungary is also heavily dependent on Russian gas and any supply disruptions could plunge the country into a deep recessionsaid the International Monetary Fund.

In Budapest’s central market, opinions vary.

David Horvath, a juice seller, says: “To be honest, Viktor Orban is not even appreciated in our own country.”

But Margaretta Krajnik, a butcher, begs to disagree. “Viktor Orban does everything for his people,” she said. “He loves his people.”

Here, it is a shared decision. In Dallas, the reception from American conservatives was perhaps more enthusiastic.