On March 30, Monday, the Hungarian parliament passed an emergency decree giving unchecked powers to prime minister Viktor Orban. The authoritarian decree was passed by the conservative Fidesz party-dominated parliament under the pretext of fighting COVID-19.
The bill was introduced on March 27 by justice minister Judit Varga and will be in effect till the end of the COVID-19 emergency (declared on March 11). The bill was passed with the support of 137 legislators while 53 voted against it.
As per reports, the bill allows Orban to “suspend the enforcement of certain laws, depart from statutory regulations and implement additional extraordinary measures by decree” without the mandate of the parliament. It introduces new measures, including the declaration of a state of emergency with no time limit, empowering the government to jail citizens for “disinformation” and “suspending elections”.
On Monday, Harangozó Tamás from the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) said, “We support all the measures that serve the protection and security of the Hungarian people. But we don’t support power without a time limit, not absolute power.”
Tímea Szabó from the Dialogue for Hungary opposed this power grab by Orban and declared that they will challenge the law in the country’s constitutional court.
Orban has already been harshly criticized for his totalitarian bid to control academic research in the country, his enactment of the notorious anti-labor ‘slave law’ and his campaign against the Central European University (CEU). Orban’s move to take over absolute power under the cover of COVID-19 has also led to criticism from progressive sections in the country, with even the European Union raising concerns about the development.
As of March 31, 492 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Hungary and 16 people had died.