12 November 2020
The same night when the Government ordered measures to counter COVID-19, it also submitted three Bills to the Parliament, the 9th Amendment to the Fundamental Law among them, that have nothing to do with the fight against the pandemic. Instead, the Bills curtail the rights of the LGBTQI community, undermine the state’s transparency, and shrink the possibilities of opposition parties in future elections.
During the evening of 10 November 2020, millions of Hungarians were waiting for the Hungarian Government to issue its previously announced decrees on ordering a series of restrictive measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus, fundamentally affecting people’s everyday lives. The Prime Minister announced the outlines of the envisaged measures in a Facebook video on 9 November, but there was a lot of uncertainty around the detailed rules of the modalities of the curfew, what businesses can remain open and under what conditions, what are the exact rules of operation for university dorms, and so forth. The government decrees were to be adopted under the framework of the “state of danger”, declared by the Government on 3 November, and with a view to a law adopted by the Parliament on 10 November, providing authorization to the Government to extend the force of any of its decrees until 8 February 2021. The government decrees on the newest restrictions were finally issued and put online a few minutes before 11 p.m. on 10 November, and entered into force at midnight, leaving very little time for people to adapt their lives to the new rules as of the next morning.
Hungarian citizens were up to some further surprises as well: during the night of 10 November, the Government submitted to the Parliament three extensive Bills, one of them being a proposal for the 9th Amendment to the Fundamental Law (the constitution of Hungary, adopted in 2011). Hungary has been hit badly by the second wave of the coronavirus: for example, on 11 November, almost 4,000 new infections were recorded in the country of 10 million, and almost 19% of the tests carried out were positive. One might think that in this grave situation, the Bills submitted by the Government are somehow connected to defending the population of Hungary against the pandemic, and the hasty legislation has surely to do with the situation caused by COVID-19 that should be urgently addressed. However, this is not the case. The Bills have nothing to do with helping the health care system in fighting the epidemic, to ensure that everybody has access to timely testing, or any other aspect of defending people’s health and lives from COVID-19. They have nothing to do with ensuring the continued operation of the Parliament either, for example by allowing for remote sessions. Instead, while Hungarians were waiting to get to know the governmental decrees that will shape their everyday lives, the Government was busy submitting Bills which
- humiliate and curtail the rights of the LGBTQI community, building on recent anti-LGBTQI political statements and earlier legislative steps;
- restrict the notion of public funds, undermining the state’s transparency and the freedom of information;
- ensure that public funds channelled into public trust funds is untouchable for future governments; and
- severely shrink the possibilities of opposition parties to coordinate their candidates when running in the parliamentary elections.
In our new flash report, we outline what declaring a state of danger means for the Government’s legislative powers, and summarize the main concerns emerging with regard to the three Bills submitted to the Parliament.
The flash report can be downloaded here: