If Hungary’s draconian experiment proves successful, then other illiberal countries will be tempted to follow suit
The Hungarian parliament, which has a two-thirds majority in favour of the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, passed a bill on Monday 30 March that extended his already strong powers. The bill, not supported by most opposition MPs, gives parliamentary authorisation to prolong the state of emergency the government declared on 11 March in light of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the few remaining checks and balances in Hungary will cease to exist, with the government ruling by decree with hardly any legal supervision. No elections and no rallies can be held. Hungary has become a textbook case of how coronavirus can be abused for authoritarian ends.
There is no sunset clause in the text, so the state of emergency will be in force for as long as the government wants. Changes to the criminal code mean the publication of facts that interfere with the “successful protection” of the public could be punished by five years in prison – a clear message to journalists. The government now also wants to effectively take over the running of local municipalities through supervising the decisions of directly elected leaders.