Common Dreams: A Harrowing Warning

‘A Harrowing Warning’ to All as Hungary Hands Far-Right Leader Dictatorial Powers Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Common Dreams 30 Mar 2020

Jake Johnson

Human rights groups and activists issued dire warnings about the state of democracy in Hungary—and the rest of the world—after the nation’s parliament on Monday approved a sweeping emergency law handing far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán dictatorial powers as the European country battles the coronavirus pandemic.

“I worry for Roma, the Jewish community, the press, and a generation of young folks. Please pay attention.”
—Jacob Labendz, Youngstown State University

The new law indefinitely suspends elections and parliament, imposes up to five years in prison for anyone who intentionally spreads what the government classifies as misinformation, and gives Orbán the authority to suspend laws by decree as he works to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. The law easily passed Hungary’s parliament, which is dominated by Orbán’s far-right Fidesz party, by a vote of 137 to 53.

“Outrageous—and something we must all take as a harrowing warning,” author and environmentalist Naomi Klein tweeted in response to the law, which does not contain a sunset clause.

Orbán insisted Monday that he “will give back all powers, without exception,” when the coronavirus emergency subsides, but human rights groups warned that the prime minister could do incalculable damage with his virtually unlimited authority in the meantime—and may not give it up so easily when the crisis is over. Orbán has already used the COVID-19 pandemic, which has officially infected nearly 500 people in Hungary, to ramp up xenophobic attacks on migrants.

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