Voice of Europe

Yesterday, the Hungarian Parliament granted emergency powers to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Many in the international media have been claiming that this grants dictatorial powers to him. The truth, however, is very different.

Parliament was originally asked to decide on the measure in an expedited emergency last week vote, which required that 80% of MPs vote to approve it. It was defeated due to lack of support from the opposition parties, however, so the government resubmitted the same bill through the normal procedure, which requires a two-thirds majority.

Yesterday, the Coronavirus Protection Law was approved. As Orbán’s party, Fidesz, and its coalition partner, the Christian Democrats, currently hold two-thirds of the seats, they did not need to receive support from any of the other parties — all of which, apart from the nationalist Mi Hazánk party, opposed the measure — for it to pass this time. The complete text of the bill has been printed in English at the government-run About Hungary website.

The law indefinitely extends the “state of danger,” which is the name given to the emergency situation, that was originally declared on March 11 and which initially had been set to expire after 15 days. It gives the government the ability to take any measures it deems necessary to deal with the pandemic until the state of danger has passed, including those which go beyond the current Disaster Management Act. However, the law specifically states that these powers can only be used to “prevent, treat, eradicate, and remedy” the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. It does not suspend the rule of law, the courts, or restrict the fundamental rights of citizens, as explained in a report by Zoltán Kovács, the Secretary of State for Public Relations, at the About Hungary site.

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