Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Órban Tuesday declared a wartime state of emergency, citing physical, energy and economic fears originating from the ongoing war in Ukraine. Órban declared a similar emergency during the Covid-19 pandemic and assumed special emergency powers set to expire next week.
Órban won a fourth term as prime minister in a “landslide” in April, and his party controls Hungary’s National Assembly. According to Freedom House, a democracy-monitoring nonprofit, the COVID-19 emergency powers were meant to last 15 days, but the government repeatedly extended them “by a series of enabling acts” in the Assembly.
Critics say Órban is exploiting crisis in Ukraine to amass unregulated power. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) commented on how quickly Órban pushed the measure through and accused his administration of “using the war in Ukraine to further its authoritarian ambitions.” Emese Pasztor, director of HCLU’s Political Freedoms Project, told the Associated Press she believes:
By always allowing the possibility of introducing a special legal order in the future, it will lose its special character. It will become the new normal, which will threaten the fundamental rights of all of us, and rule by decree will further diminish the importance of Parliament.
Freedom House gave Hungary low scores in freedom and democracy earlier this year.