Hungarian Parliament is due to consider an emergency bill this week that will give Prime Minister Viktor Orban unprecedented powers to rule by decree. The bill has no clear cut-off date and seeks to extend the state of emergency that was declared earlier in the month due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Under the terms of the state of emergency and the bill, people risk jail for spreading information that could be considered ‘fake news’. It also gives a concentration of power or Orban and is essentially an open-ended, carte blanche mandate.
While the Hungarian government has portrayed the move as a necessary response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic, critics are concerned it is open to abuse.
Yesterday, four Hungarian NGOs including the Helsinki Committee, called on the government to include an end date in the bill and to provide for constitutional challenges.
A spokesperson for Orban, Zoltan Kovacs wrote on twitter that the lack of an end date was in case members of parliament were too sick to attend. He added that claims it could be abused or used to threaten the free media were “biased and irresponsible” because lives were at stake.
While many EU states have enacted special legal orders in light of the current situation, none have done so indefinitely. Furthermore, none have been implemented with such a broad scope, leaving all decisions in the hands of the Prime Minister alone.