Hungarian P.M. Orban Announces He Will Return His Emergency Powers ‘At the End of May’

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban arrives ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 28, 2018. (Eric Vidal/Reuters)

Hungary Prime Minister Victor Orban said Friday that he would give up his far-reaching coronavirus emergency powers later this month, despite fears that the nationalist leader would use the authority to consolidate power.

“We expect the government will be able to return the special powers to tackle the coronavirus pandemic to parliament at the end of May,” Orban’s Facebook page read. The prime minister also took aim at detractors who had accused him of autocracy after Hungary’s parliament gave Orban the right to rule by unilateral decree in March.

“We successfully defended our homeland and our performance is comparable to any country’s,” Orban said after a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who also took extensive emergency powers during the pandemic. “We did this within a democratic framework and we will return to the usual parliamentary order.”

“There was no basis for the criticisms,” Orban during the visit to Serbia on Friday. “Once they apologize, we also expect their admiration for the success of Hungary’s defense [against the pandemic.” To date, Hungary has 3,417 confirmed coronavirus infections and 442 deaths among the population of nearly 10 million.

On Thursday, European Union lawmakers asked that Orban be punished for his actions, after the European Parliament passed a resolution last month that singled out Hungary’s emergency powers for criticism.

“The Union has not taken any concrete measures to sanction [Prime Minister Viktor] Orban’s government,” Spanish lawmaker Iratxe García Pérez told European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova and other EU leaders. “And so he continues his action to centralize power, to interfere in the electoral system, to control the news media, education, culture, harassing civil society. Colleagues, this is shameful!”

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