Spectre Of Coronavirus Quarantine Haunts Hungarian Democracy
Budapest, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 27th Mar, 2020 ) :A "dictatorship" at the heart of the EU? A draft law to grant anti-coronavirus emergency measures set for adoption by Budapest has alarmed observers who fear it will hand Prime Minister Viktor Orban unlimited power.
After declaring a state of emergency on March 11, Orban expects parliament to vote on Tuesday to allow him to extend it indefinitely and rule by decree in order to better fight COVID-19 and its impacts.
The law would also enable heavy jail terms for publishers of "false information" about the virus and the government's measures, stoking new worries for Hungarian press freedoms that have dwindled under Orban.
- 'EU's first dictatorship'? - A former anti-communist turned self-styled "illiberal" nationalist, 56-year-old Orban has also transformed Hungary's political, judicial, and constitutional landscape since he came to power in 2010.
For his part Orban unabashedly continues to portray himself as a traditional conservative.
Responding to Council of Europe criticism of the draft law this week, Orban curtly told the body in a letter to "read the exact text of the law".
Supporters of the government argue that extending the special powers is widely supported by the population and decisive rule is necessary during the current crisis.
But according to Zoltan Fleck, a law professor at Budapest's ELTE university, the Hungarian context of a decade of strongarm rule by Orban makes rule-by-decree more perilous than elsewhere.
"In a weakened constitutional state, special powers are always very risky," he said in a recent interview.
- Attempted 'coup d'etat' claim- Hungary is not the only state with a fragile democracy where the beefing up of government powers aimed at battling the coronavirus has lead to fears of states abusing their emergency powers.
Last week, United Nations experts urged states not to "abuse" security and safety measures taken in response to the pandemic.
As one opposition party slammed Orban's proposal as an attempted "coup d'etat" others urged him to compromise by fixing a time-limit on the state-of-emergency powers.
But Orban, typically, has refused to budge. "We don't need the opposition to solve this crisis," he said Monday, confident in his parliamentary majority.
According to Budapest-based think-tank Political Capital the main problem in the pandemic crisis is "not that the government does not have enough power to act.
"It is rather the restricted capacities of the healthcare sector due to having been underfunded for years," it said.