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Coronavirus – Orbán: Gov’t Special Powers No Threat to Opposition or Democracy

MTI-Hungary Today 2020.03.31.

Answering questions in the Hungarian Parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán dismissed a remark by right-wing Jobbik’s Péter Jakab, who slammed the government’s epidemic response bill as the prime minister’s “coronation”.

Responding to Democratic Coalition MP Gergely Arató’s criticism of the government’s handling of the epidemic, Orbán said:

Everyone should calm down. The government’s powers are no threat to you or democracy.”

Responding to a question from the Socialist Party’s Tamás Harangozó as to whether the government would use its emergency powers to raise wages in the health-care and social sectors and advance pensioners their payments, Orbán said the government will outline Hungary’s “most comprehensive economic stimulus action plan of all time” on April 6 or 7.

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

Asked whether the government would uphold the state of emergency after the epidemic subsides in order to stabilise the economy, Orbán said that under the law passed on Monday, he personally would “not have the power to extend anything”. The prime minister stressed that parliament alone would have the power to decide when the state of emergency ends.

Coronavirus: Opposition Demands Inclusion of Timeframe in Epidemic Response Bill

Reacting to the opposition Párbeszéd party’s questions on whether the government planned compensation for anyone who loses their job or earns below 100,000 forints (EUR 280), Orbán said the government was working to ensure jobs and “decent wages”, and the action plan being drawn up would mean “everyone will have a job”.

Orbán said that since coming to power in 2010, the Fidesz government had “very nearly made good on its promise” to create one million jobs in ten years, yet, he added, the opposition just sneered at the promise at the time.

European Commission: Emergency Measures Should be Proportionate and Necessary, Freedom of Press Important

Centrist green LMP’s László Lóránt Keresztes called on the prime minister to provide information and resources for local authorities facing new tasks due to coronavirus. Orbán said the local epidemic response bodies are the forums for local leaders to disseminate information and make decisions.

Asked by Jobbik MP György László Lukács about the anticipated duration of the epidemic, Orbán said it was “impossible to say”. The priority, Orbán said, is to slow down the spread of the virus in order to ease pressure on the health-care system.

Coronavirus: President Áder Signs Law Enhancing Gov’t Powers

The government has so far spent 225 billion forints (EUR 630.3m) on buying protective equipment, building a container hospital and making other preparations in connection with the novel coronavirus epidemic, Orbán said, adding that Hungary has “deployed the necessary hospital capacities for treating patients.”

Regarding infections among health-care staff, Orbán said infected doctors were being replaced by resident doctors for the most part, and those above 65 were being separated from Covid-19 patients. In answer to another question, Orbán said infections of health-care staff “are to be expected”.

Orbán said Hungary had “nothing to be ashamed of” regarding its handling of the virus, arguing that the government had acted more swiftly to introduce the necessary response measures than many other countries.

Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI