Viktor Orbán uses coronavirus pandemic to complete his dictatorship

The party state’s two-thirds majority in parliament meant that with 138 voting for and just 53 against, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has secured the right to rule by decree for an unlimited period of time, and to unilaterally suspend existing laws, ostensibly in an effort to better address the COVID-19 pandemic in Hungary. On Monday, the number of Hungarians confirmed to have the virus rose to 447, while the number of deaths totalled 15. The opposition parties, including the centre-left Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), the Democratic Coalition (DK), Politics Can Be Different (LMP), Dialogue (Párbeszéd) and Momentum, all voted against the proposal, as did the right-wing Jobbik party. While the Hungarian opposition, though fractured, agreed on the need for the Fidesz government to have more leeway in a period of crisis, their main demand was to attach an end date to Mr. Orbán’s ability to rule by decree, rather than give him an indefinite carte blanche. Opposition parties, despite more widespread concerns about growing authoritarianism, were open to supporting the legislation if it came with a sixty or ninety day sunset clause. It was a reasonable demand and in times of unprecedented crisis, governments and the opposition manage to work together in a spirit of conciliation — except in Hungary.

The Hungarian parliament on 30 March 2020.

With the right to rule by decree for an indeterminate period of time, the newly adopted piece of legislation, also signed into law by President János Áder with lightning speed, allows for the following:

  • Imprisonment of one to five years for disseminating news or gossip deemed to be false about the coronavirus situation;
  • By-elections and referendums cannot be held during the period of national emergency;
  • Imprisonment of up to three years for anyone who hinders authorities in quarantining individuals or in the enforcement and monitoring of quarantines.

Rule by decree will remain in effect until the coronacrisis is deemed to have passed — and it is in the gift of the Fidesz government alone to make this determination. Few checks and balances now exist. One of these is the Constitutional Court, where it is doubtful that a decision unfavourable to Mr. Orbán would be rendered. The other is that one quarter of members of parliament may vote to review and debate specific decrees. In a parliament where Fidesz enjoys a solid two thirds majority, such reviews amount to little more than window dressing. In the most extreme scenario, should the Coronavirus crisis be deemed unresolved in Spring 2022 by the Hungarian government, the current legislation would ensure that no national elections are held and Mr. Orbán could government without a mandate indefinitely. Should, however, elections proceed, the opposition will find itself in the midst of a propaganda storm on how it “opposed” the government’s efforts when it came to addressing the coronavirus and went against the interests of the Hungarian nation. Mr. Orbán’s already unchecked rule will be significantly emboldened.

3 Comments

  1. 3 out of 4 Hungarians are satisfied with the FIDESZ government’s response to the Wuhan corona virus.

    In time of crisis a country should be united and reporters should not be writing fake news, now and ever.

    The media should try to be non partisan, e.g. German news article said there were about 1700 attacks on immigrants/refugees, etc.. The article did not mention that crime committed by this group is 35% of all committed crimes and the % of population is 12.

    News articles that polarize the population for political gain only should be tampered. A country needs everybody’s cooperation to defeat the virus.

    The extra ordinary powers given to Prime Minister Orban are temporary and up to this time, he has never abused his power.

  2. von T. Why don’t you return the Orbanistan and enjoy the good life that you support with such gusto?
    Or you just write the drivel for $?

  3. In case the author failed to notice the EU is in a very deep crisis at the moment. Every day a few thousand people are dying. The economy, which was a disaster even before is sinking deeper. A monetary experiment which no one really knows for sure how long before it blows up is the only thing that keeps it all on life support. Hungary is once more leading the way, just like it did in the last crisis in 2015, when they were called Nazis, Fascists and so on, for doing things that are now mild compared with what Greece has been doing, and is being praised for it. With the migrant crisis EU elites had time to begrudgingly accept their folly. With the current crisis they ran out of time a long time ago. Its simply moving too fast. Decision making needs to move even faster. No time for idealism!

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