Hungarian Parliament Building – credit: Andrew Shiva

The Hungarian parliament voted to grant Prime Minister Viktor Orban powers to rule by decree without time limit during the country’s ongoing coronavirus emergency.

The legislation, which passed 137 to 53, effectively suspended parliament for an indefinite period during the emergency, prevents any elections or referendums from being held while in force, and opens up the prospect for the punishment of journalists.

Anyone deemed to be spreading fake news about the spread of the disease can be imprisoned for to up to five years.

The measures have been described as dictatorial by human rights groups and opposition parties, with some going as far as to compare it to the 1933 Enabling Act in Nazi Germany, which gave Hitler power to enact laws without involvement in parliament.

Despite opposition from other parties in the parliament, Orban’s Fidesz party holds a two-thirds majority to allow such legislation to pass without hindrance.

“We will solve this crisis without you, even if you do not support this bill,” Orban told opposition MPs in parliament.

Amnesty International criticised the measures, calling them a ‘carte blanche to restrict human rights’ in the country.

Peter Jakab, leader of the opposition Jobbik party, said that Hungarian democracy is now in effect in quarantine.

The Coronavirus Act enters into effect from midnight.

As of March 30, 447 people have been infected with covid-19 in the country, with 15 dead.