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Opposition Fears Gov’t Wants to Hinder Primaries by Extending State of Emergency Legal Order

Péter Cseresnyés 2021.04.22.

The Orbán government has submitted a bill to parliament that would extend the special legal order in connection with the pandemic. It claims the decision is necessary because the epidemic is not yet over. However, opposition parties believe that the government’s true intent is to hinder the joint opposition’s primary election process set to start in mid-August.

On Tuesday, the government submitted a bill on extending the special legal order in connection with measures against the coronavirus pandemic.

The effect of the relevant government decree is going to expire on May 23rd, after it was extended by 90 days in late February.

The bill itself does not contain detailed rules that would apply during the special legal order- it only allows the government to rule by decree. In line with the new proposal, it is planned to be extended until the 15th day following the start of the autumn session in parliament. Although the beginning of the autumn session is not yet specified, but as it usually starts in September, the relevant legislation will cease to apply either in the same month or in early October. The bill however also states that the government could end the special legal order even before that deadline.

According to the proposal, the extension is necessary because new virus variants are spreading throughout Europe and are also present in Hungary, therefore an increased level of protection is essential.

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At his regular press briefing on Thursday, the prime minister’s chief of staff justified the new bill with the same argument.

Although Hungary’s vaccination drive is one of the most successful in the EU, the epidemic is not over yet, therefore the special legal order needs to be extended, Gergely Gulyás said. However, the government can end it sooner “if the numbers justify it,” he emphasized.

As elections cannot take place and people’s right to peaceful gatherings is also suspended during the special legal order in Hungary, some believe the government’s true goal with the new bill is simply to hinder the joint opposition’s primary campaign and election.

In the past days, several Fidesz mayors have already started to raise their voices against the opposition’s pre-election campaign.

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“Székesfehérvár needs peace, not a primary campaign,” wrote the mayor of Székesfehérvár on social media.

László Cser-Palkovics thinks opposition parties began their primary campaign at a critical moment of the epidemic situation. This, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t be a problem, but the current situation is “neither normal nor ideal.”

“Kecskemét should not become a battlefield,” Klaudia  Szemereyné Pataki, the Fidesz mayor of the town Kecskemét writes on Facebook. „In our current critical situation, our city does not need a primary campaign, but calm and responsible political actions,” the politician adds.

In response to the government’s proposal, joint opposition parties issued a statement sharing the view that in actuality, the extension of the deadline aims to hinder the opposition’s primary election.

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The pre-selection process of DK, Jobbik, LMP, Momentum, MSZP (Socialists), and Párbeszéd joint candidates is set to start in mid-August and will involve electing individual candidates for constituencies in a single round in September, and a prime ministerial candidate in two rounds in October.

The statement says that during the planning process they already saw that the primary election would be organized under special circumstances due to the epidemic, for which they consider safety to be the most important aspect.

However “knowing [ruling]  Fidesz,” they were also prepared for the government to try and make it more difficult to organize the primary, regardless of the epidemic situation.

In reference to the European Football Championship, opposition parties also noted that while the ruling party considers an increased level of protection to be essential until the autumn because of the new virus variants, at the same time they are preparing to “host full-house football matches” in June.

Featured photo illustration by Tamás Kovács/MTI