Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, claims Poles and Hungarians have a common goal in maintaining Christianity in their countries as the leader progresses towards a third consecutive term in power.
Mr Orban, who commonly presents himself as the defender of Europe and Hungary from Muslim migrants, is well in the lead to win Sunday’s general election according to the latest opinion polls.
Mr Orban has held his position as prime minister since 2010. His right-wing, populist leadership, which echoes elements of Donald Trump’s rise to power, has seen the 54-year-old attain a firm grip of the media, allowing him to dominate the public agenda and propagate ethnic nationalism.
On Friday, he said Hungary’s future would be decided for decades in the forthcoming vote, in which he vowed to protect his nation from the “rust” of Muslim migrants.
A third straight term for Mr Orban could embolden Hungary’s longest serving post-communist premier to solidify a Central European alliance against the European Union’s migration policies and against a deeper integration of the bloc, which he opposes.
It would also give a lift to other right-wing nationalists in Central Europe, in Poland and in neighbouring Austria, which could expose flaws in the EU.
“We will win again on Sunday as we have won battles in the past which looked impossible for many,” Mr Orban told a few thousand supporters waving the national flag in the town of Szekesfehervar, west of Budapest.
“We have built the fence, defended the southern border ... Migration is like rust that slowly but surely would consume Hungary.”
Earlier on Friday he voiced common cause with Poland, whose governing Law and Justice (PiS) party is under fire from the EU over their refusal to take in migrants under a quota system and over their efforts to tighten state control of their courts and media.
“We believe Poles and Hungarians have a common path, common fight and common goal: to build and defend our homeland in the form that we want ... Christian and with national values,” Mr Orban said at the unveiling of a statue marking a 2010 plane crash that killed the Polish president.
Poland’s PiS leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, attending the ceremony commemorating the plane crash in Russia in which his twin brother was killed, endorsed Mr Orban ahead of Sunday’s vote.
At a rally in Budapest on Friday, Socialist prime ministerial candidate Gergely Karacsony accused Mr Orban of having abused his strong political mandate.
“There is no other man who had so much power and who has abused it so much,” Mr Karacsony told hundreds of supporters.
Mr Orban has been a recipient of criticism for his far-right views. In January 2015, after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in France, he quickly blamed immigrants for the events and refrained from listening to alternative arguments, such as radicalisation, socioeconomic problems, disenfranchisement and the troubled upbringing of the attackers, both of whom grew up in an orphanage.
However, he has sought to capitalise on his country’s turbulent history with foreign powers, which includes foreign invasions and the Treaty of Trianon which settled the post-First World War borders of Hungary, one of the successor states of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire. The events left Hungary deprived of its multicultural communities.
Mr Orban, who has had previous spats with EU, has been accredited with the economic growth which his country has experienced over the last year, with the economy expanding by 4 per cent in 2017 and the national unemployment rate dropping to 3.8 per cent from 11.4 per cent since he first came to power.
His re-election could lead to Hungary taking an even more critical approach towards the EU, after lamenting Brussels, Berlin and Paris in February for facilitating the ‘advance of Islam’.
Additional reporting from Reuters