Hungary’s PM says gov’t to assume new powers over Ukraine war

Prime Minister Viktor Orban says the war in Ukraine represents ‘a constant threat to Hungary’.

Hungary’s government will assume emergency powers in order to be able to respond more quickly to challenges created by the war in neighbouring Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said.

Orban, who won a fourth consecutive term in an election early last month, has used the special legal order in the past, once due to Europe’s migrant and refugee crisis and later during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new state of emergency similarly empowers Orban’s government to approve measures by decree.

In a video posted on Facebook on Tuesday, Orban said that the war in Ukraine represents “a constant threat to Hungary” which was “putting our physical security at risk and threatening the energy and financial security of our economy and families”.

Orban said his government’s first measures would be announced on Wednesday.

The move came after Orban’s ruling party passed a constitutional amendment on Tuesday allowing for legal states of emergency to be declared when armed conflicts, wars or humanitarian disasters were taking place in neighbouring countries.

The special legal order permits the government to enact laws by decree without parliamentary oversight, and permits the temporary suspension of and deviation from existing laws.

Hungary’s government implemented similar measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to outcry from critics and legal observers, who argued they gave the government authority to rule by decree. That special legal order was set to expire on June 1.

Orban’s government has been accused of eroding democratic freedoms in Hungary since taking power in 2010, and using state resources to cement its power. The governing Fidesz party won a fourth-straight election victory on April 3, giving Orban, the longest-serving leader in the European Union, an additional four-year term.

In a statement on Tuesday, Emese Pasztor of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union wrote that Hungary’s government was “once again adapting the rules of the game to its own needs”.

“By always allowing the possibility of introducing a special legal order in the future, it will lose its special character. It will become the new normal, which will threaten the fundamental rights of all of us, and rule by decree will further diminish the importance of Parliament,” Pasztor wrote.

Governmental decrees issued through the special legal order are valid for 15 days unless extended by Hungary’s parliament. Orban’s Fidesz party has held a two-thirds majority in parliament since 2010.

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