Hungary’s government has effectively declared itself a dictatorship under the guise of combating the coronavirus.
Its parliament voted to allow the government—run by the far right Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party—to rule by decree.
That means it can do what it likes without having to go through parliament. All by-elections and referendums have been suspended.
Orban said the government would now have the powers needed to tackle the virus. Anyone who promotes “distorted facts” that may “alarm or agitate” the public faces prison for up to five years.
What’s more, there’s no time limit on the new powers. It’s effectively up to the government to decide when—or if—it gives them up.
This is a warning of the dangers of letting governments use the coronavirus to bring in sweeping new powers. In France, a coronavirus bill has granted the President new powers until April next year to introduce extended periods of detention without charge, and impose house arrest and electronic surveillance.
Around 100,000 police have been deployed to stop anyone leaving home and to question them about whether they have a valid excuse. People are required to carry permits specifying why they have left the house. A series of shocking videos have shown police engaged in brutal attacks against people of Arab and African background as well as the homeless.
Even here, we have seen police given the power to impose fines of up to $1652 in Victoria, and similar amounts in other states, giving them an excuse to stop and harass people outside the house.
All these measures have been implemented in the name of responding to the health crisis. But once a government has won the argument for new laws, it’s far easier for them to argue to keep them.
Adapted from Socialist Worker UK