Hungary PM Orban flags end to virus emergency powers

Telegram från AFP / Omni
15 maj 2020, 15.34

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban signalled Friday an end to controversial anti-coronavirus emergency powers that critics said were a cover for an authoritarian takeover.

"We expect that the government will be able to give the special powers it received due to the pandemic back to parliament at the end of May," he said during a trip to Serbia.

Emergency legislation adopted by the Hungarian parliament on March 30 granted the nationalist premier powers to rule by decree without a fixed time limit until his cabinet declared an end to the COVID-19 crisis.

Critics at home and abroad, including some of his allies in the European parliament's conservative EPP grouping, accused him of using the crisis to steer EU member Hungary toward authoritarianism.

The European Parliament approved on April 17 a statement saying Hungary's measures were "incompatible with European values".

Hungarian opposition parties said Orban was abusing the extra powers to issue decrees aimed at cementing his rule, rather than combatting the virus.

Budapest has dismissed the criticism as "fake news" and said its powers were proportionate and could be rescinded at any time by parliament.

"The special legal order created in Hungary empowered the government and its leader to make serious, difficult decisions due to the epidemic quickly," Orban told a joint press conference Friday with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

"Everyone will get a chance to apologise to Hungary for unfounded accusations about the law," he added.

Hungary, with a population of almost 10 million, has reported more than 3,400 infections of the coronavirus and 442 deaths as of Friday.

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