The coronavirus crisis has already overloaded hospitals and stopped nearly completely the economy but its worst impact could be the introduction of political policies that empower hungry power leaders with more power, creating surveillance states and sabotaging the democracy.
Hungarian Police questioning an old woman in the street. Photograph: Tibor Rosta/AP
This week the Hungarian parliament gave the green light to the government lead by Viktor Orban to rule the country with unlimited power to an undefined time. Now, Prime Minister Orban can abolish or implement any law without the consent of the parliament. Also, elections have been suspended in the country according to a report from Human Rights Watch.
Hungary becomes the first European country to suppress the media freedom, where criminal penalties of 5 years of jail are imposed for those who spread fake news or distorted facts. Of course, the law says that only those who do this on purpose will face such penalties but how are they going to judge that is another matter.
In the past, the government has not spared efforts to control the media in the past 10 years but with the new corona crisis, things became more simple. It is easy to implement policies in a time of crisis with the excuse that the measures taken are only for the actual crisis but later when the crisis is over it will be hard to remove these policies and come back to normal.
Indeed, even since the European Parliament in September 2018 activated Article 7 – the instrument that deals with EU governments that put the European values at risk – European states did not push the necessary pressure on those EU leaders hungry of power.
“…the European Parliament, may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2, after inviting the Member State in question to submit its observations.
Where a determination under paragraph 2 has been made, the Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the Member State in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. In doing so, the Council shall take into account the possible consequences of such a suspension on the rights and obligations of natural and legal persons. Reads the Article 7”
An immediate reaction should come as soon as possible from the EU, with all their mechanism to prevent the creation of the first non-democratic country inside the European Union.
The corona crisis is giving carte-blanche to authoritarians in Hungary and if Europe does not move quickly to defend the democracy by the rule of law, the “virus” of autoritarism might spread across the old continent infection other countries.
However, if the global economy will collapse more countries will turn into authoritarianism in order to survive. If such a scenario becomes reality governments will impose capital control, a thing that already is happening in some third world countries. Inflation rates will skyrocket and hard money like gold, real estate, and bitcoin might be the best options to hedge against a collapsing financial system, but with authoritarian regimes, bitcoin is even better, because it is an asset that unlike gold or real estate can not be confiscated.
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