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Hungarian PM Viktor Orban to relinquish special emergency powers


Hungarian PM Viktor Orban to relinquish special emergency powers

Viktor Orban in the Hungarian parliament in March
Photo: AP

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is set to relinquish his special emergency powers, which established a de facto “rule by decree” in late March on the grounds of COVID-19 mitigation.

The bill—which gave Orban’s regime the power to arrest those accused of spreading misinformation—has been classified by domestic and international critics as a blatant power grab. The controversy has amplified tensions between Hungary and western EU member states, 13 of which have expressed “deep concern” but resisted more punitive measures.

International observers have further denounced the recent vote to suspend the emergency powers, arguing that Orban is now equipped with a dangerous precedent through which to permanently expand his executive authority. His government has near-total control of the mainstream media, economy and judiciary.

Analysts believe Orban will likely attempt to consolidate his authoritarian grip as the pandemic wanes, possibly by moving against independent media and courts not yet under state control. Such a manoeuvre could deepen divisions between Brussels and the V4 faction of Central European states to which Hungary belongs. Expect Russian support to complicate the bloc’s east-west ideological misalignment as Budapest strengthens ties with Moscow. If Orban continues in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s footsteps, the EU may seek punitive measures akin to that which removed Orban’s Fidesz Party from the centre-right European People’s Party last year. However, the bloc is equipped with weak statues to address assaults on democracy and will likely emerge from COVID-19 in a comparatively weak position to enforce action.

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