Hungary opposition brakes passage of new emergency powers

  • Hungary opposition brakes passage of new emergency powers

Hungary opposition brakes passage of new emergency powers

The bill to be debated Monday in Parliament would grant the government special powers, including the ability to rule by decree, for as long as the government considers it necessary because of the epidemic.

New legislation would enable Viktor Orban's authorities to extend the state of emergency indefinitely, even when the spread of COVID-19 made it impossible to take a seat in Parliament.

"The rules would also introduce prison sentences of up to five years for taxpayers who discuss false information linked to the coronavirus, which might interfere with general public health or produce" confusion or unrest".

The bill will have to be voted on next week after opposition MPs blocked the use of an emergency mechanism that would have seen it come to a vote more quickly.

"The MSZP will not be a partner in assisting in the adoption of a law that would indefinitely subject Hungary, the Hungarian people, to the whims of Viktor Orbán", Tóth wrote.

The Council of Europe's human rights expert expressed concerns about the lack of a "clear cut-off date" and other safeguards in the proposed legislation.

"While restrictions on individual freedoms may be necessary in the pandemic, any such measures must be necessary, proportionate, temporary and limited to solving the immediate health crisis - criteria that the Hungarian proposals do not appear to meet", the IPI said in a statement, noting government efforts to dismantle press freedoms since Orban's return to power in 2010.

Orban's government has faced criticism from separate media for withholding data and revealing inconsistencies in handling the COVID-19 catastrophe.

He also called on Member States to respect freedom of press even during the coronavirus crisis because "democracy can not work without free and independent media", and during the time of the coronavirus crisis, "the work of the press is now more important than ever".

"In times of crisis it is more important than ever that journalists can do their job properly, precisely so to avoid disinformation", he added.

In Parliament on Monday, Orban said there was no room for political battles in the fight against the spread of the virus and asked for the support of all parties in dealing with the crisis. Parliament would only be able to lift the state of emergency by a two-thirds majority, exactly the majority held by ruling party Fidesz, meaning ultimately it's Orban's decision.

Hungary has so far recorded 167 infections from the new virus and eight deaths.