Hungarian Lawmakers Approve Ending Orban’s Emergency Powers

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(Bloomberg) -- Hungary’s parliament approved ending an emergency status that allowed Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree, but it voted through new legislation that raised fresh questions about the country’s democracy.

In a unanimous vote, parliament agreed Tuesday to conclude the “state of danger” that gave Orban the right to rule without oversight in March. The regime touched off criticism from some European Union leaders that he was using the coronavirus as cover to take absolute power in Hungary.

Hungarian Lawmakers Approve Ending Orban’s Emergency Powers

“Those who cried dictatorship at home and abroad can now extend their apologies,” Orban said on Facebook after the vote.

The government will conclude the state of danger at midnight on Wednesday, MTI news service reported, citing Minister in Charge of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyas.

But a new bill also approved on Tuesday set the stage for more potential criticism that Hungary is sliding further toward authoritarian rule.

A 246-page law created an additional type of emergency, for health, allowing the government to start governing by decree without parliament’s consent. It also broadened the cabinet’s ability to restrict rights during states of emergency.

Hungary, which joined the EU in 2004, is under investigation by the bloc for potentially violating its rule-of-law norms. The country became the first member to lose its status as a democracy this year in an annual survey of countries by Freedom House, a rights watchdog based in Washington D.C.

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