Hungary to consider bill that would allow Orbán to rule by decree
Government says legislation is a necessary response to coronavirus but critics fear it is open to abuse.
Hungary’s parliament will consider an emergency bill this week that would give prime minister Viktor Orbán sweeping powers to rule by decree, without a clear cut-off date.
The bill seeks to extend the state of emergency declared earlier this month over coronavirus, and could also see people jailed for spreading information deemed to be fake news. The government has portrayed the move as a necessary response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, but critics immediately labelled the legislation as dangerously open-ended and vulnerable to abuse.
“You can’t have a completely unrestricted mandate for the government,” said Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. “The current draft does exactly that. It basically gives an open-ended carte-blanche mandate.”
On Sunday, four Hungarian NGOs, including the Helsinki Committee, called on the government to provide a sunset clause to the emergency measures and broaden the scope for constitutional challenges to future decrees enacted within it.
The new law would also introduce prison terms of up to five years for anyone publicising false information that alarms the public or impedes government efforts to protect people. It caused disquiet among independent journalists, who have often been accused by the government and its loyal stable of media outlets of peddling fake news.
Orbán’s spokesman Zoltán Kovács said the lack of a clear end date was in case MPs became too sick for parliament to sit. Attempts to portray the bill as a threat to the free media were “biased and irresponsible”, he said. “Lives are at stake,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that the bill is “quite reasonable”.
Part of the alarm was owing to the record of Orbán’s government over the past decade. Critics and democracy watchdogs have accused the government of rolling back democratic norms and eroding the rule of law.
“The past 10 years have served as ample proof that the Hungarian government exploits and abuses opportunities to weaken institutions serving as a check on its power, whenever it has the chance to do so,” said the Budapest-based think tank Political Capital. “Extraordinary legal situations are very easy to introduce, but it is much harder to return to business as usual afterwards.
So what you all. think, will this Corona-virus be. the excuse fro Orban to turn Hungary into a real dictatorship? Or will the citizens protect their rights some way?
I think we have all be aware of all the special measurements taken by our governments to limit our liberties temporarily. Although that is most understandable at combating this crisis and even necessary for public health, temporarily have a habit of becoming permanent.