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Mini-Trumps in the Wilderness

After four years of hiding behind Donald Trump while they dismantled their countries' democratic institutions, populist leaders in Poland and Hungary have suddenly found themselves exposed and out in the cold. Poland's ruling Law and Justice party, in particular, should be preparing for an overdue reckoning.

WARSAW – Joe Biden’s election as president of the United States has seriously weakened authoritarian and populist governments around the world. For independent global powers like Russia, Brazil, and Turkey, Donald Trump’s departure need not amount to a complete tragedy. But for the current governments of Poland, Hungary, and Serbia – and perhaps Boris Johnson’s United Kingdom, too – it is a veritable disaster.

Not surprisingly, each of these smaller players has greeted Biden’s election with fear and loathing. Putting it most bluntly, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has already complained that, “I did not get along with Biden when he came to Serbia [as Barack Obama’s vice president]. I can’t get along with him now. I congratulated him and that’s it.” Clearly, Russia, not America, will remain Vučić’s Pole Star.

For his part, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has long made it clear that his “Plan A” was for a Trump victory, reflecting how close the two have become. Like Vučić, the Hungarian government harbors resentments for things Biden said back in the Obama era, when, according to Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, Hungary was the subject of “continuous lecturing, accusations, and attacks.”

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