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Government introduces state of emergency

March 13th, 2020

As the government gives special powers to the authorities to combat the coronavirus pandemic, closing down universities and introducing strict border controls, pro and anti-government think-tanks clash on Facebook over the legitimacy of the ‘special legal order’ declared on Wednesday.

The Károly Eötvös Public Policy Institute, a staunch critic of government policies warns that under a state of emergency, the government might limit citizens’ rights to an extent far beyond what is required by the threat of an epidemic. The measures announced or contemplated by the government do not require a state of emergency, the institute writes on its Facebook page. The ‘special legal order’ declared by the government, on the other hand also allows the authorities to censor information and restrict communications among citizens. The liberal think-tank calls on the government to justify its decision to resort to such an extreme regime of crisis management.

The Centre for Basic Rights, a pro-government think-tank, sharply condemns the position of the Eötvös Institute as an attempt at shaking public trust at a critical juncture. The state of emergency introduced on Wednesday, they explain, is the mildest of the several variants of ‘special order’, milder than those that could be introduced in even more severe cases like war, terror threat or mutiny. Its introduction, the explanation continues, was indispensable to allow the authorities to limit property rights and the right of assembly. A state of emergency has been declared over the past thirty years only locally, mainly to combat floods and, in one case, the ‘red sludge’ catastrophe (see BudaPost, February 9, 2017). This is the first time it has been introduced nationwide since the taxi blockade in 1990.

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