Hungarian Helsinki Committee warns about “carte blanche” given to the government

This article was originally published on the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s website, on 31 March 2020 – See here

Following the adoption by the Hungarian Parliament of the “Authorization Act”, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee warned about the consequences on the governance of the country and the loss of counterpowers to the Prime Minister and his government. The HHC also announced it would “reorganise its activities and intensify its efforts to counter the destruction of the rule of law”.

Despite the unanimous protest of the political opposition, concerns from key international actors, calls by civil society and a protest by over 100,000 Hungarian citizens against the law, MPs of the governing majority voted in favour of the Covid-19 Protection Act, commonly known as the “Authorization Act”.

Calls to enact clearly necessary constitutional guarantees (a sunset clause, well-defined mandate, easy access to and a short time-limit for in-merit decisions of the Constitutional Court) were ignored, although these would have made the government’s proposal acceptable for the political opposition and international stakeholders. This is a missed opportunity when in the current COVID-19 crisis the Hungarian government stresses the importance of national unity. It is also difficult to understand why the government did not make any reasonable compromises if, as it claims, it has no intentions to exploit the unlimited mandate given by the law.

The Hungarian Parliament, as the legislative body representing citizens, will practically be dormant from now. Essentially, laws will be made by the government. In parliamentary systems such as the Hungarian, the citizens exercise power through their elected representatives. From now on, this will be barely possible. It is for the government to decide when this rule-by-decree period is over. In the absence of proper parliamentary functions, civilian oversight of the government and its institutions, performed in particular, by the press and human rights and other civil society organisations, becomes more crucial than ever.

We live in a new era: in the time of both an epidemiological and a constitutional state of emergency. These new times create new challenges and require new solutions.

Find the full article on the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s website.