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Viktor Orban will expand grip on power as Hungarian parliament expected to pass anti-coronavirus bill

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Viktor Orban will expand grip on power as Hungarian parliament expected to pass anti-coronavirus bill

Orban Predicts EU Parliament to Censure Hungary Over Rule of Law ...

Photo: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

Hungary’s National Assembly is expected to pass a coronavirus prevention bill today, granting Prime Minister Viktor Orban the ability to circumvent parliament and rule by decree.

If the resolution passes, Orban will be able to extend Hungary’s state of emergency—first declared on March 11—indefinitely, allowing him to rule the country unilaterally. Supporters of the bill cite the necessity of rapid decision-making to combat the spread of COVID-19. Hungary has recorded over 300 cases of the virus.

The bill has found significant opposition within Hungary, as well as the EU. In addition to the indefinite timeframe, many have criticised the steep punishments laid out for spreading false information regarding the virus or critiquing Orban’s policy response as ‘authoritarian’. The heightened penalties represent a further step in the Hungarian leader’s growing control over independent media, following restrictions on ad revenue and state consolidation of major outlets in 2018.

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Despite sharp EU criticism, Orban’s high popularity at home—his conservative Fidesz party holds a supermajority in parliament—insulates him from pressure to budge. Since elections cannot be held during a state of emergency, in the likely case that Orban’s bill passes today, the premier may continue to erode democratic institutions in Hungary.

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