In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has declared a state of emergency in an effort to “stay out of this war” and to “protect families’ financial security.” As translated, it’s difficult to understand exactly what Orban may mean by that, but what is clear is that Orban now has “the authority to rule by decree, bypassing parliament altogether,” according to Amanda Coakley in Foreign Policy. She writes:
“The aim is to make things easier for the government and ensure there is no debate about their policies,” said Daniel Rona, the director of 21 Research, a think tank. “Parliament is an arena, and they don’t want articles being written on what they’re doing, or attention being drawn to it. In addition, we need to remember that this move doesn’t top the list of problems with Hungary’s democracy. Our elections in April were not even free and fair.” The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe noted last month that the sham elections in April were “marred by the absence of a level playing field.”
The declaration of a state of emergency is also a nod to Moscow, which has enjoyed a close relationship with Budapest since before Orban’s return to power. In December 2021, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto received the Russian Order of Friendship from his counterpart Sergey Lavrov for his work on improving ties between the two countries. In the hours following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Budapest condemned Russia’s “military action” and backed initial sanctions, but it took a hard line on any Russian oil embargo, arguing it would directly impact Hungarian families. Orban has already said he will not discuss energy sanctions at next week’s special meeting of the European Council.
“Orban’s dance between the EU sanctions and his messaging on the war, saying ‘It’s a war between two countries,’ might send a strong message to Putin,” said Istvan Hegedus, the chair of the Hungarian Europe Society and a former member of Fidesz. “In some respects he is changing his language to fall into line with the EU, but it’s without conviction. It’s evident he wants to keep special ties to Russia, and Putin understands that.”
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