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Hungarian Lawmakers Revoke Orban's Virus-Emergency Powers

Hungarian military police officers patrol Budapest's deserted Heroes' Square during a coronavirus emergency.

Hungary's parliament has passed a resolution to withdraw the special powers given to right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Hungary's parliament, where Orban's Fidesz party holds a comfortable majority, voted by 192 votes to none on June 16 to lift the state of emergency -- or state of danger, as it is called in Hungary -- and related special powers put in place on March 30 to deal with the pandemic which gave Orban the right to rule by decree indefinitely.

The government is now expected to formally lift the state of danger later this week.

However, lawmakers also approved a bill which critics say would enable the government to declare another so-called "state of medical crisis" and rule by decree in future, potentially for an indefinite period.

From early last month, the government gradually ended a national lockdown as the outbreak subsided.

Hungarian opposition parties and rights groups at home and abroad called the extra powers "dictatorial" and said Orban abused them to cement his rule rather than combat the virus.

Some of the more than 100 government acts issued since April stripped opposition-run municipalities of power and funding.

The emergency powers also included potential jail terms for "scaremongering" over the pandemic, triggering concern for press freedom.

Police opened more than 100 cases of suspected scaremongering and temporarily detained several people, although no cases came to court.

The European Parliament in April approved a statement saying Hungary's measures were "incompatible with European values."

Hungary's population of almost 10 million has been lightly affected by the virus in comparison with other parts of Europe, so far reporting just over 4,000 infections of the new coronavirus and around 560 deaths.

Based on reporting by Reuter, AFP, and