The cabinet will convene on Wednesday to “resolve” problems arising from expiring measures issued under the state of emergency introduced due to the novel coronavirus epidemic, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, told a press conference on Tuesday.
Since the opposition on Monday refused to debate extending special measures in an extraordinary session of parliament, this can be debated only next Tuesday at the earliest, Gulyás said. The government now “has to mitigate the damage caused by the opposition,” he said.
Among the measures expiring this Friday is the decision to close Hungary’s borders to vehicles arriving from certain countries, Gulyás said. The closure of universities and the ban for health-care workers, soldiers and government officials to leave Hungary also expires on Friday, he added. Meanwhile, the decision to suspend court trials and the authorisation of mayors to order the closure of kindergartens and nurseries expire on Monday, he added.
He said that going by the opposition’s “behaviour” in parliament on Monday, there was reason to believe that there was a push by the opposition to “spread lies” about the government’s epidemic response bill on the international stage.
Gulyás slammed as “falsehood” the claim that the government’s decision not to set a time limit for maintaining the state of emergency would lead to a delay in holding elections, noting that the timetable for holding general and local elections is regulated by the constitution.
It is up to the government to determine the duration of the state of emergency, Gulyás said, adding, at the same time, that the bill’s sponsors had proposed that parliament should be the one to decide how long it should be maintained for. This, he said, limited, rather than expanded, the powers of the cabinet.
In response to a question, he said the government had no way of extending earlier resolutions online. But if it did, he said, then Anett Bősz, a member of the opposition Democratic Coalition’s group, who had been the first to suggest such a solution, “would be the one screaming the loudest”.
Asked to comment on rumours about the response bill circulating in the media, Gulyás insisted that no one would be penalized for criticising the government or its handling of the epidemic. Only false claims meant to incite fear would be punishable, he said.
Máté Kocsis, the group leader of ruling Fidesz, told the same press conference that by refusing to support any of the government’s proposals on Monday,
the opposition had begun “to play a very petty, very hypocritical and very phony political game”.
Kocsis said the opposition parties had had a sudden change of mind about the epidemic response bill after having attended multiple seven-party meetings without raising any concerns.
The group leader said Fidesz had approved a number of the opposition’s proposals regarding the bill, such as moving parliament’s sessions to the upper chamber or the inclusion of a necessity and proportionality clause.
As regards the demand to add a time limit to the state of emergency, he said it was impossible to tell whether parliament would next meet in 60 or 90 days.
Kocsis called it “extremely hypocritical” that while parliament had rejected the government’s bill, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony was set to run the capital “through the use of executive orders” without convening the metropolitan assembly.