Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted his congratulations to authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán on his election “victory”, a man accused of antisemitism, xenophobia, undermining Hungary’s democratic institutions, and attacking the free press.
Congratulations to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Hungary’s Fidesz for winning a decisive fourth term! The IDU and I are looking forward to working with you.
— Stephen Harper (@stephenharper) April 9, 2018
The integrity of the election has been called into question by independent third-parties. Election observers cited numerous irregularities, including the use of state resources to support Orbán’s Fidesz party, opaque campaign financing, and intimidation.
The campaign also featured highly racial and xenophobic rhetoric towards refugees. Fidesz campaign exclusively on keeping migrants, and those fleeing violence in Africa and the Middle East, out of Hungary:
With just two weeks to go before the vote, thousands of anti-migrant billboards appeared that were theoretically unrelated to the campaign. They featured a long line of migrants, emblazoned with the word STOP. The same photograph was used in Ukip’s controversial “breaking point” poster during the UK’s Brexit referendum campaign.
Other foreign leaders took a strong stance against Orbán, criticizing those who congratulated the autocratic leader:
Those comments were immediately denounced by the former Belgian prime minister and leader of the liberal group, Guy Verhofstadt. He tweeted: “By congratulating Orbán without calling on him to respect European values, the EPP legitimises his vile campaign, his attack on the rule of law & attempt to install authoritarianism.”
This isn’t the first time Harper has congratulated a controversial far-right leader. In 2017, Harper tweeted his congratulations to Sebastian Kurz from the far-right Austrian People’s Party. In our coverage, we explained how it was a foregone conclusion that Kurz planned to partner with a party founded by a neo-Nazi.
It’s another troubling example of tactic support between far-right international groups and Conservative politicians here in Canada.