State of emergency in Hungary: The corona coup of Viktor Orbán – VoxEurop (English)

A new emergency law has given Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán sweeping powers, turning a free-speech nightmare into a Corona-driven reality. Will liberal democracy manage to avoid contagion?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://voxeurop.eu/en/2020/state-emergency-hungary-5124535

I don’t understand the surprise, of many, about this news: Orban has always aimed at pure power, and the pandemic of the Corona virus, has given him a motivation, in his opinion, more than valid, to obtain it.

At best, what might amaze me, is the silence response of the inhabitants of his country, who accepted this coup without reacting. Or, at least, we have not received any news about reactions to the coup !!

JC

Since the Orban’s political party - Fidesz - has the constitutional majority in Hungarian parliament, and therefore the Hungarian prime minister can have approved anything he wants, I don’t much understand his motivation to avoid the parliament. Actually even true dictators like Putin consider legitimacy stemming from public as very important - that he even lets constitutional changes that allow his additional term in office approved by the Russian citizens in referendum (of course, cunningly associated with the question of increase of pensions - but formally he does care for being able to say: “our people want me”).

On the other hand, since nothing much practically changes, I find the reaction of EU that finds it as a kind of point of break, rather over-emotional. Actually, my bigger worry is about the fact that was mentioned in the comment by JoeVR: that the civic society in Hungary is not strong enough to resist because in other new EU members, politicians sometimes have temptation to concentrate more powers too but don’t succeed due to response of the activistic public (we could have seen big civic society demonstrations in other V4 countries as well as in Romania, but I understand that at the times of coronavirus lock-down it is impossible to organize massive protests).

I would also like to assure readers from Western Europe that articles depicting political situation in new EU members as dire and that politicians of those countries want to take the coronavirus emergency as an opportunity to restore local dictatorships and secede from Europe as unfounded. For example, Polish opponents of the current Polish government tried to suggest a hypothesis that V4 countries wanted to close borders long before the coronavirus crisis to stop brain drain and only took advantage of the pandemic to execute that, see article here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/commentisfree/2020/apr/01/coronavirus-contaminating-europe-democracy-viktor-orban-seize-more-power

But the explanation is much simpler: since the first coronavirus infections in V4 countries were first detected at locals who spent their spring holidays in ski resorts in Italy and at foreign tourists visiting V4 countries, it was clear that if the national healthcare system aimed to trace the spreading of the infections, you first need to stop the inflow of new cases from outside to be able to trace only those that already are within the territory. V4 countries have managed that quite well and their infection rates as well as death rates are much smaller even compared to Germany that was so admired in Western press for having low death rates and citizens of those countries are indeed grateful that they don’t have to see military vehicles piled with coffins (btw, many Erasmus students from Western EU members have decided to stay in V4 countries during the lock-down).

It is now goal of EU to come with a smart way to do away with these measures but without dragging the infections throughout EU again. For example, if it proves that those who cured from the Covid19 gain immunity, it would make sense to have special permits for them that would allow them to freely travel across the Schenghen space (but it would be necessary to ensure that those permits cannot be falsified - e.g. by having them in an EU-wide central information system).

I had plans to visit Hungary in late April, but due to COVID-19 outbreak I had to cease them. Nonetheless I am going to visit Hungary this year, when situation improves. I read about health situation in Hungary and Hungary imposed very strict measures, even in comparison to Poland, Slovakia or Czechia. Situation in Hungary in comparison to rest of Europe is very decent, mostly due to the fact that Orban imposed these strict measures in timely way. Similarily, Polish rulling party Law and Justice acts in very similar way as Hungarian Fidesz. Despite imposing strict measures by the government and steadily rising number of infected people, together with deaths, Law and Justice, read, Kaczynski himself, persistently wants to organize Presidential Elections, due on May 10th. Presidential campaign exists only in theory, in reality it is beeing boycotted by majority of presidential candidates. So, Orban at least acts in open way, he grabs the full power, because opposition allows him to do so. Hungarian opposition is not only fragmented by also has no alternative to Orban’s policies. We can like Orban or not, but majority of his policies, simply tend to work in Hungarian environement. Polish situation is quite different, because opposition is stronger and Law and Justice acts pretty amateurish. The fact, that Kaczynski does not want to postpone presidential elections, shows that he is affraid of the outcome of COVID-19 outbreak. Economic situation deteriorates, despite official propaganda of success, Polish economy is weak and Poles lack basic savings.