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Coronavirus – Justice Minister: Epidemic Response Law Ends when State of Emergency Ends

MTI-Hungary Today 2020.04.01.

Hungary’s new law which enhances government powers to tackle the novel coronavirus epidemic will be in effect until the end of the state of emergency, Justice Minister Judit Varga told Austrian public broadcaster ORF late on Tuesday.

In the interview concerning the controversial law which Hungary’s parliament passed on Monday, Varga noted the similarities in “the responses of all countries” to the virus, insisting the Hungarian parliament had “more powers than usual” as it can withdraw the law and the special powers granted to the government at any time. The end of the state of emergency, however, will be determined by objective factors, she said.

Regarding the passages on punishments of 1-5 years in prison for spreading fake news, Varga said the law aimed to “raise awareness” about the need to stay disciplined during the emergency. The prison sentencing is designed for anyone who intentionally disseminates falsehoods during the related period and obstructs the protection measures, she said. Expressing opinions, including criticism of the government, does not come under that heading, she said.

Bill on Indefinite Extension of Special Decrees Garners Distrust over Rule of Law and Freedom of Media

The order of elections is enshrined in the Hungarian constitution, Varga said. The next general election will be held in 2022, “and this law has nothing to do with that”, she added.

Varga rejected the accusation that Hungary’s government had conducted a power grab as “unfounded”, saying it was “in vogue” in Europe to criticise Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government. That government, however, won two-thirds majorities in three consecutive elections, Varga said. “We are true Europeans but critical [of Europe], and we are attacked for that,” she said.

Justice Minister to ARD: Hungary Coronavirus Law ‘Democratic’

The Hungarian government’s recent law aimed at extending measures with regard to the coronavirus epidemic is “democratic”, Justice Minister Judit Varga told German public television ARD, arguing that parliament could repeal the government’s authorisations “anytime”, which she said was unique in Europe.

Varga added that it would also be up to parliament to declare the epidemic-related state of emergency over.

Law on Enhanching Gov’t Powers: Is Democracy Over? What Exactly is in the New Legislation?

Tímea Szabó, group leader of opposition Párbeszéd, was also invited to the programme. She insisted that over the past ten years the government had “always used its power to empty of its contents democracy and the rule of law” and demanded guarantees that “the government will not do the same in connection with efforts against the epidemic”.

In the featured photo: Justice Minister Judit Varga. Photo by Gergely Botár/kormany.hu