It is widely considered that the passing of the corona virus bill in Hungary is a huge step towards dictatorship. (See, for example, here: https://www.politico.eu/article/hungary-viktor-orban-rule-by-decree/)

The main argument is that:

  1. The bill allows prime minister Orban to rule by decree infinitely (at least as long as he sees fit) and that
  2. There is no real need for these measures even during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

But what remains is the question whether there is any need for such measures. From my view as a outsider, I can't really see any benefits concerning the fight against the pandemic. Fidesz already has a two-third majority in parliament, enabling it to rule mostly unhindered and is even able to change the constitution if deemed necessary. Any (tough) measures could probably be passed easily by Fidesz without Orbán having to be able to rule by decree.

Of course, if someone would like to transform the country into a dictatorship, these measures would make a lot of sense. But are there other reasons that may justify the necessity of the bill?


1 Answer 1


Well, one obvious justification is that it means the parliament does not have to assemble.

  • It is difficult to organize a parliamentary debate while keeping social distancing.
  • What if some legislators get into contact with an infected person. Could they still speak and cast their vote, or would they be banned during the quarantine period?

Of course the parliament could e.g. have put a narrow expiry date on the rules, but who knows how feasible a session would be three or six months from now? An expiry of "after the pandemic" would be too fuzzy.

My personal opinion is that the parliament should have found a way to stay relevant, but the question asked for possible justifications.

An option might have been to change parliamentary rules to reduce the quorum, possibly combined with pairing, or to allow online debates and voting, but those are difficult for democracy as well.

  • 2
    Worth pointing out is that there actually are a few checks and balances built into the Hungarian Constitution that never seem to make it into media reports. They're technically annoyances, such as requiring Orban to reissue all bills passed during this period every so often (2 weeks if memory serves), and the fact that the emergency can be lifted by the government whether Orban wants it or not. But they're still there. I'm no fan of Orban's authoritarianism myself, but according to my Hungarian wife the situation is not as clearcut black as reports make it. Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 17:19
  • @DenisdeBernardy Probably because, as you say, they are mere annoyances. The parliament could indeed lift the emergency, but only with a two-thirds majority, so if Orban does not want to, at least half of his own party would have to go rogue on him. So this is more a theoretical option than a real limitation.
    – Thern
    Commented Apr 2, 2020 at 6:37

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