Hungary to consider ending PM Orban’s emergency powers

According to a statement from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, the PM is expected to submit a

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban in March

Photo: Zoltan Mathe/EPA

According to a statement from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, the PM is expected to submit a proposal to parliament today to end the government’s special COVID-19 emergency powers.

In late March, Hungary’s parliament gave Orban executive powers that allow him to rule by decree and jail individuals who spread “false information” for up to five years. The emergency powers law has been criticised by civil libertarians, opposition lawmakers and the EU for lacking a sunset clause and threatening the rule of law in the country.

There is a considerable chance that Orban will not begin the process of relinquishing his emergency powers today. The PM has thus far only vaguely spoken about surrendering his new powers “at the end of May” and has taken advantage of his sweeping authority to jail social media critics. Even if Orban complies, it is possible that the Fidesz-KDNP-controlled National Assembly could only partially remove Orban’s emergency authority, still allowing him considerable latitude to rule independent of the legislature.

While Brussels has considered how to respond to Orban’s effective dictatorship—ranging from withholding funding and subsidies to suspending the country from the bloc altogether—anything short of swift and decisive action by the EU is only likely to play into Orban’s hands, buying him time to extend his unilateral control in Hungary.

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