Shutting things down is the norm for governments around the world right now in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but Hungary took things to another level Monday.
The country's ruling party overrode their parliamentary opposition and passed an emergency bill effectively ceding sole authority to Prime Minister Viktor Orban for an indefinite period of time. There won't be any by-elections or referendums for the time being, and Orban will have the ability to bypass parliament when making decisions. The Constitutional Court will still review government actions, but Orban has stacked the body with loyalists over the years, reports Bloomberg.
The new bill also sets the stage for harsh punishments for Hungary's citizens should they violate coronavirus-related measures.
Hungarian Parliament passes bill that gives PM Orbán unlimited power & proclaims:
- State of emergency w/o time limit - Rule by decree - Parliament suspended - No elections - Spreading fake news + rumors: up to 5 yrs in prison - Leaving quarantine: up to 8 yrs in prison#COVID19pic.twitter.com/5ScZCbF4yv
Orban has reportedly been tightening his grip on power for a while which has made many of his European Union colleagues uneasy. So it's no surprise the latest move quickly drew strong rebukes. "I don't know of another democracy where the government has effectively asked for a free hand to do anything for however long," said Renata Uitz, director of the comparative constitutional law program at Central European University in Budapest.
I have been dreaming of a "United States of Europe" for years. Precisely for this reason, I have the right, and the duty, to say that after what Orban has done today, the European Union MUST act and make him change his mind. Or, simply, expel Hungary from the Union
Orban and his allies, however, have suggested everyone relax. The prime minister said the emergency measure poses no threat to democracy, while Justice Minister Judit Varga said the legislation is "limited." Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell