The Hungarian government has expressed concern that the U.S. may try to interfere in its elections after the Biden administration declined to invite the country to a summit on democracy.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Thursday that he believed the U.S. would use the Magnitsky Act to impose sanctions on Hungarian officials before the parliamentary election in April.
Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orbán, is seeking a fourth term in office in next year’s election. His conservative Fidesz party has been in power since 2010.
Szijjarto said there would be attempts to interfere in April’s polls and the country was preparing for them.
“We don’t live on the moon. We live in central Europe. Of course there will be attempts,” Szijjarto said.
“We have already detected preparations … I want to reassure Hungarians that all relevant institutions are doing their jobs to fend off external interference attempts in the elections.”
Szijjarto said leaving Hungary off the list of participants for the Summit on Democracy was “disrespectful.” Hungary was the only European Union member not to be invited and critics have long accused the Orbán government of eroding democracy .
The State Department told The Financial Times on Thursday that it looked forward to working with governments including Hungary to ” address democratic backsliding , advance human rights and defend against corruption.” However, it did not respond to the newspaper’s question about deploying the Magnitsky Act.
Under the act, the U.S. can impose sanctions on foreign nationals for human rights abuses and corruption. Sanctions were imposed on high-profile Bulgarian individuals before that country’s snap election in July. The move appears to have contributed to the defeat of the country’s former prime minister, Boyko Borisov.
The Biden administration has yet to appoint an ambassador to Budapest and Szijjarto compared the current U.S. approach to his government’s warm relationship with former President Donald Trump .
“Hungarian-American relations were at their peak during the Trump presidency,” Szijjarto said at a press briefing.
“We have a great deal of respect for the former president, a respect that is mutual. We give the same respect to every elected U.S. president—regardless of what we get in return—but it is clear that those who were on friendly terms with Donald Trump were not invited,” he said.
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