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FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban talks to the media after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany, July 5, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday that European parliament elections next year could bring about a shift toward illiberal "Christian democracy" in the European Union that would end the era of multiculturalism.
The right-wing nationalist Orban, re-elected in April to a third consecutive term, has spearheaded eastern European resistance to EU moves to have member states accept asylum seekers and migrants under a quota system.
Along with Poland's nationalist government, he has been in constant conflict with the European Commission, the EU's executive, over what Brussels calls an erosion of democratic institutions in formerly commnist east European countries.
In an annual speech to ethnic Hungarians in Baile Tusnad in neighbouring Romania, Orban portrayed the 2019 European parliamentary vote as decisive for the future of Europe.
He said the Western political "elite" of the EU had failed to protect the bloc from Muslim immigration and it was time for them to go. "The European elite is visibly nervous," Orban told hundreds of cheering supporters.
"Their big goal to transform Europe, to ship it into a post-Christian era, and into an era when nations disappear - this process could be undermined in the European elections. And it is our elementary interest to stop this transformation."
Orban said the European parliamentary vote must prove that there was an alternative to liberal democracy, which he said worked in undemocratic ways in Western Europe by being intolerant of alternative views.
"Christian democracy is not liberal...It is illiberal, if you like," Orban said.
Unlike liberal democracy, he said, Christian democracy rejects multiculturalism and immigration while being anti-communist and standing for Christian values.
"We are facing a big moment: we are saying goodbye not simply to liberal democracy ... but to the 1968 elite," he said, alluding to an international wave of leftist, liberal protest that upended the ruling conservative order in many countries.
On Friday, Orban welcomed the founding of the anti-EU Movement group by Steven Bannon, a far-right former aide to U.S. President Donald Trump, to boost the nationalist, anti-immigrant vote for the European Parliament next year.
Orban's Fidesz party, which firmly leads opinion polls, has also demonized Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire George Soros and the liberal charity groups he supports. Fidesz has pushed through legislation to restrict the activity of civil society groups that it accuses of encouraging illegal migration.
Orban accuses Soros of promoting mass immigration to undermine Europe's Christian culture. Soros denies this.
Orban has also built warm relations with Russia, which is building a nuclear plant in Hungary, and repeatedly criticised EU sanctions against Russia imposed after its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Sandor Peto; Editing by Mark Heinrich)