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May 27, 2020

National Review dissects the "ludicrous" attacks on Hungary's state of emergency law

Hungarian opponents of Orbán spread ludicrous and easily-checkable claims about the legislation, saying that the parliament itself had been suspended and elections cancelled, a claim spread by people as eminent as Anne Applebaum.

 

In an article published by the National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty writes that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s so called “dictatorship” was one of the shortest in European history. He wonders if it will be recorded in the history books that from March 30 to June 20 Hungary lived as one of the briefest dictatorships ever recorded, before voluntarily extinguishing itself. He writes this with tongue-in-cheek, of course. 

Dougherty highlights that it was on March 30 that the Hungarian Parliament approved a state-of-emergency law to deal with coronavirus that gave power to Viktor Orbán’s government to pass laws by decree, and instituted severe-looking restrictions on the dissemination of fake news. Several European countries had already passed enabling acts of this sort — France has seemed to go in and out of such states of emergency regularly in the last decade. That the emergency powers were a feature of Hungary’s existing constitution, limited by that constitution not to touch fundamental rights and subject to a parliamentary check, troubled none of these analysts.

At the time of this great panic for Hungarian democracy, Hungarian opponents of Orbán spread ludicrous and easily-checkable claims about the legislation, saying that the parliament itself had been suspended and elections cancelled, a claim spread by people as eminent as Anne Applebaum. Other experts told us confidently that these powers were gathered by Orbán for the purpose of suppressing the inevitably disastrous performance of his nation’s healthcare institutions. American political strategists predicted extravagant things, such as: “He’s going to wind up putting Gypsies in permanent detention…”

Dougherty predicted that Orbán would return the emergency powers back to Parliament roughly around the same time as France. This week, Hungary began the process, and all powers will be restored by June 20. Currently, France’s emergency powers last until July 10, but could be extended.

How did the predictions pan out? Hungary has seen just under 500 deaths out of slightly less than 3,500 cases, which, while serious, is nothing like the horrors visited upon Italy or Spain in recent months. Its hospital system, though far behind richer nations, did not break down.

There was no great showdown with Brussels and Washington, D.C., needed to end the emergency. During the crisis, Orbán’s opponents often repeated a statement from the European Commission expressing “concern” about the emergency legislation and a determination to monitor it. What they often did not mention was that the statement came along with a preliminary ruling of EU legal experts that there were no concrete violations of fundamental democratic rights, and therefore Brussels had no basis for acting against Hungary.

Read more here.