“These visits have a huge influence in the Hungarian conservative community, because they see [Trump] as an icon, as someone who spent his presidency in a strong headwind,” said a source close to Fidesz.

A thinktank linked to the Orbán government, the Centre for Fundamental Rights, has issued an invitation to Trump, a government source told The Guardian.

The invitation comes as Orbán moves into campaigning mode ahead of a closely fought election due on 3 April, when his Fidesz party will face a united opposition coalition, in what is seen as the biggest challenge to his rule since he became prime minister 12 years ago.

“People in Fidesz would really like Trump to visit Budapest in March,” said the source, who added that Trump has not yet replied to the invite. If it happens, the visit would be Trump’s first known trip outside the US since he lost the elections in 2020.

Orbán was an early Trump supporter, endorsing him as early as summer 2016, and he also publicly backed him in the 2020 vote. The pair spoke by telephone in January, and Trump returned the favour, publicly endorsing Orbán for the April election. An in-person visit by the former US president would be seen as a major campaign boost. One former Republican staffer said Trump is known to fear contracting Covid while travelling abroad and may prefer not to travel.

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