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Coronavirus law giving govʼt extraordinary powers passes

Government

MPs on Monday approved legislation that extends a state of emergency and gives the government extraordinary powers to enact measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, state news wire MTI reports.

The legislation, which required a two-thirds majority, was approved with a vote of 137 for and 53 against.

The law allows the government to "suspend the application of some legislation, diverge from legal provisions and take other extraordinary measures by decree in the interest of ensuring the security of life, health, person, property and rights of citizens as well as the stability of the national economy".

The legislationaims to ensure the governmentʼs power to take further measures and keep existing ones in place if Parliament is unable to convene for reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic.

It also cancels any scheduled by-elections and prohibits the scheduling of new by-elections as well as the initiation of any local or national referendums.

The law establishes stiff penalties for violations of quarantine and isolation, ranging from one to eight years in prison. Individuals who obstruct measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus may also be jailed for up to a year under provisions in the law.

The legislation sets prison terms of up to three years for anybody who disseminates "false facts" or "distorted facts" which "incite unrest", and terms up to five years if that dissemination impede the effectiveness of measures to contain the coronavirus.

The government declared a state of emergency on March 11 but it was only in force for a period of 15 days. Governing Fidesz-KDNP had tried to get lawmakers to vote on the bill extending the state of emergency before the end of that period by asking for a deviation from house rules, which requires the backing of four-fifths of MPs, but opposition parties withheld their support because the bill did not contain a sunset clause. The vote on Monday was taken in an expedited procedure.

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