June 16, 2020 / 10:44 AM / a month ago

Hungary's parliament revokes government's special powers as virus ebbs

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary’s parliament on Tuesday revoked special powers granted to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to tackle the coronavirus pandemic as the number of cases dwindles and the focus shifts to reviving the economy.

Orban, whose right-wing Fidesz party, has a large parliamentary majority, shut Hungary’s international borders and imposed tough restrictions on citizens’ freedoms to help halt the spread of COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the virus.

Orban, 57, who has extended his influence over most walks of life in Hungary during his decade-long rule, faced accusations from human rights groups of making a power-grab after lawmakers granted him the open-ended mandate in late March.

Hungary, which has a population of around 10 million, had recorded 4,077 cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, including 565 deaths.

While revoking the government’s special rights, parliament also passed a resolution to maintain some recent measures introduced by Orban, including a moratorium on all loan repayments until the end of this year.

Orban now faces the toughest challenge of his rule as the pandemic is expected to push Hungary’s economy, along with much of the world, into recession and drive unemployment higher.

The government has channelled significant tax revenues away from local municipalities and this measure also remains in place, prompting criticism from opposition parties.

Parliament also approved a measure whereby the government can declare a state of emergency in future based on a proposal from the surgeon-general if he or she deems that the public health situation requires it.

Reporting by Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves; Editing by Gareth Jones

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