Ahead of election, a handful of world leaders voice support for Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, his first since being treated for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Orlando Sanford International Airport in Sanford, Florida, U.S., October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

By custom, most world leaders do not weigh in on U.S. presidential elections, wary of alienating one side or damaging strategic interests by appearing to interfere.

In 2016, then-Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, speaking at a town hall, claimed that foreign leaders had reached out to ask if they could endorse her, “to stop Donald Trump.” A few, like Italy’s prime minister at the time, Matteo Renzi, had already done so in public. But she would not run down the list.

President Donald Trump, on the other hand, in 2016 and 2020, has received the vocal support of a handful of foreign leaders, mostly right-wing populists known for clear parallels to Trump in policy and rhetoric.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden, like Clinton, has seen significant support from former heads of state around the globe. But, despite Trump’s low approval rating in many foreign countries, shown in polls, most world leaders have remained quiet.

Here are some countries with leaders that have bucked the norm and expressed support for Trump.

– Hungary

Shortly after Trump first accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in July 2016, he was endorsed by Hungary’s right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

That early support cemented what has developed into a close affinity, built in part on shared anti-immigration views. Last month, Orban again endorsed Trump.

“We root for Donald Trump’s victory, because we know well American Democratic governments’ diplomacy, built on moral imperialism,” Orban wrote in an essay, Reuters reported. “We have been forced to sample it before, we did not like it, we do not want seconds.”

– Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro endorsed Trump earlier this month, after signing a new trade deal with the United States.

“God willing, I will be able to attend” the inauguration, said Bolsonaro, according to Politico. Brazil’s leader added that he did not want to “interfere” and said he was speaking “from the heart.”

Like Orban, Trump and Bolsonaro share common ground. They are both known for populist policies and bombastic rhetoric that defies political norms. Amid presidencies marked by two of the world’s most severe novel coronavirus outbreaks, they have both been infected with the virus while continuing to play down its impact.

– Philippines

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave Trump’s reelection his blessing in February, shortly after ending a long-standing military agreement with the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement “unfortunate,” but Trump said he did not mind.

“It is President Trump’s circumspect and judicious reaction to the termination of the VFA that made President Duterte give the following remarks: ‘President Trump is a good president and he deserves to be re-elected,’ ” the country’s presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement, Reuters reported.

Human rights groups accuse Duterte of enabling rights abuses and a culture of widespread impunity in crackdowns on political opponents and an ongoing war on drugs.

– Serbia

The leaders of Serbia and of Kosovo, the independence of which Serbia does not recognize, met with Trump in September and agreed to normalize economic ties. While short of fully restored relations, U.S. diplomats called it “a first step.”

It was a political win for Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who in June told a local television station that Trump faced “a serious and tough enemy” after anti-racism protests erupted following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, the Associated Press reported.

“I hope the U.S. will come out of the crisis,” he said, adding that he wished Trump “the best of luck.”

Vucic was elected president in 2017, after having served as prime minister. The former head of an ultranationalist Serbian party, he has recast himself as a pro-Western liberal while maintaining close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Another leader in the region, Milorad Dodik – the Serb member of Bosnia’s three-part, multiethnic presidency – on Friday called on Serbs in the United States to vote for Trump, and said that Biden “is simply a Serb hater,” according to the AP.

– Slovenia

The prime minister of Slovenia endorsed Trump in a tweet on Friday, adding the birthplace of first lady Melania Trump to the clique of countries with leaders who have sided with the incumbent candidate.

“We respect difficult, tragic personal life of @JoeBiden and some of his political achievements years ago,” Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa tweeted, in a reference to Biden, who lost a wife and daughter in a car crash and a son to cancer.

“But today, if elected, he would be one of the weakest presidents in history. When a free world desperately needs a STRONG #U.S. as never before. Go, win, @realDonaldTrump,” Jansa wrote. He ended the tweet with images of American and Slovenian flags.

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