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Hungarys PM Wins Emergency Powers to Fight CCP Virus

BUDAPEST—Hungarys parliament granted nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban the right to rule by decree on Monday to fight the CCP Virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, ignoring calls by opponents and rights groups to put a timeframe on the extra powers.

President Janos Ader, an Orban ally, signed the legislation extending a state of emergency after it was approved by parliament, dominated by Orbans Fidesz party. Ader said it was in line with international treaties and Hungarys constitution.

The law has triggered criticism from opposition parties, rights groups and the Council of Europe, Europes main rights forum, because it does not set a specific limit on the time the additional powers will be in force.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban votes the law granting the government special powers to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban votes the law granting the government special powers to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban votes the law granting the government special powers to combat the CCP virus disease (COVID-19) crisis at the Hungarian parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on March 30, 2020. (Zoltan Mathe/Pool via reuters)

It also imposes jail terms of up to five years on those hindering measures to curb the spread of the virus or spreading false information that could upset people or hinder the fight against the virus.

Rights groups said this might be used to muzzle journalists as remaining independent media are forced to cut staff and budgets while media loyal to the government continue to receive taxpayers money.

Since he took power in 2010, Orban has built media he can control, using legal levers, ownership changes and advertising money for more loyal media coverage. The economic impact of the CCP virus could accelerate the shake-up of the media, journalists say.

The government has rejected the criticism, saying the law empowers it to adopt only measures needed to fight the virus, and that parliament can revoke the special powers.

“This is an authorization limited both in time and scope … as it is solely related to the coronavirus, and you are crying a dictatorship,” state secretary Bence Retvari told opposition parties before the vote.

Justice Minister Judit Varga said it was “very damaging fake news” that the law is intended to neutralize the national assembly.

Orban, who has gradually increased his power in a decade in office, has often been in conflict with the European Union and rights organizations over his perceived erosion of democratic checks and balances and the rule of law.

Opposition lawmakers said they back the governments overall fight against the virus but wanted a time limit placed on the governments special powers, which parliament can extend if necessary. Parliament rejected all opposition amendments.

President Ader said the governments special authorization would end once the epidemic is over and was limited to dealing with the epidemic and its fallout.

“The controlling role of Parliament and the governments duty to report will remain in place during the epidemic,” Ader said. HungaryRead More – Source

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