Hungary’s government effectively declared itself a dictatorship on Monday under the guise of combating 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.
It should be a warning of the dangers of letting governments use coronavirus to bring in sweeping new powers. In Britain, the Tories haven’t gone as far as their friend Orban.
But their Coronavirus Act has given the cops more powers to stop, harass and detain people. Spooks have more freedom to access people’s private data.
And all this went through with barely a peep of opposition. Labour was happy just to ask for a six-month review of the powers.
But once a government has won the argument for new laws, it’s far easier for them to argue to keep them.