Hungary to give prime minister sweeping powers amid coronavirus outbreak

Cheryl Sanders
March 31, 2020

The move were approved by 137 votes in favour, and 53 against, in the 199 member parliament. It needed 133 votes to pass.

President Janos Ader signed the bill into law shortly after its approval in parliament.

"It is of utmost importance that emergency measures are not at the expense of our fundamental principles and values. democracy can not work without free and independent media", said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Two members of the military police patrol the streets in Budapest, Hungary on March 30, 2020. "A time limit cannot be declared in this situation because there is no one. who can say how many months of struggle we have to prepare for".

But once the crisis softens and other countries start to roll back emergency measures, Hegedus said, Hungary's government will need to be checked to ensure it also gives back its new powers.

Opposition parties have criticised the move as unnecessary, fearing it would give a blank cheque to government rule.

Among the global bodies expressing concern over the bill before it became law were the United Nations human rights office, the Council of Europe, and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

10 yrs ago I was in Hungary as a deputy assistant secretary of state, calling out backsliding on human rights & democratic institutions.

Lawmakers on Monday passed a bill aimed at extending a state of emergency and granting the government special powers to take extraordinary measures to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.

During the emergency period the government will brief the parliament on its moves; the new law does not, however, suspend parliament.

Opposition parties criticized the government's economic measures meant to alleviate the effects of the pandemic as insufficient. He said it would be the largest action of its kind in Hungarian history.

"The press and non-governmental organisations now have a particularly important role to play in controlling the government", said a statement after the vote by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee refugee rights group.

"Parliament, as the legislative body representing the people, practically will be in recess from now on". More than 13,300 tests have been carried out, the government said Monday.

A decree setting restrictions on leaving home, with exceptions for going to work or for essential needs like food shopping, took effect on Saturday.

While the whole of Europe is distracted by the pandemic, Viktor Orban has forced through emergency powers that allow him to "rule by decree".

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