Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony has expressed his support for a proposal by Hungary’s opposition parties to set up parliamentary committees to investigate government measures related to the coronavirus epidemic.
Because the government has taken it upon itself to manage the epidemic and the resulting economic slowdown, it must be held accountable for its handling of the crisis, Karácsony said on Facebook. Hungary’s coronavirus
death toll of more than 12,000
and “a slew of scandals involving funds meant to be spent on managing the economic crisis” not only warrants but also requires that parliament hold the government accountable, the mayor said.
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“It’s time to clarify why the government does what it does and what the European Union is doing when it comes to the procurement of vaccines,” Karacsony added.
The mayor said getting fact-based information “free of propaganda” out to the public was the only way to build trust in the vaccine.
He said it was also important to clarify why the country’s Covid-19 death toll was as high as it was and why “three-quarters of the budget resources allocated for economic protection measures have been spent on things that have nothing to do with protecting the economy, jobs and workers”.
Yesterday, representatives of the five parliamentary opposition parties and the extra-parliamentary Momentum Movement initiated an extraordinary session to discuss government measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, seen by the opposition as insufficient. The proposed session should convene on February 1, and discuss proposals to set up three ad-hoc committees to look into the government’s economic measures,
issues around handling the epidemic in Hungary, as well as vaccine purchases from China.
A proposed amendment aimed at ensuring the continued operations of commercial broadcaster Klubrádió would also be on the session’s agenda.
The parties held a press conference in front of Parliament, at which Momentum vice chair Anna Orosz said that the government’s recent measures “pose the question if they are working to save lives or to stuff their front men with money”.
LMP deputy group leader Antal Csárdi said that the economic ad-hoc committee should ascertain “if the government’s measures in fact serve the interests of Hungarian society”. He insisted that “using the crisis as an excuse, the government does nothing but pay off its own oligarchs, while the largest part of society is on an existential tight rope”.
Gergely Arató, deputy group leader of the Democratic Coalition,
voiced concern about the Chinese vaccine,
not licenced by the European Medicines Agency, and called on the government to provide details of licencing in Hungary, purchase price and possible intermediaries in the acquisitions. Those details are crucial to establish public trust for vaccination, he said, insisting that mistrust was rooted in “constant political and economic manipulation with vaccines not licenced by the EU”. Confidence could be restored if people have a choice of vaccines and if licencing and purchasing are made transparent, he added.
Socialist deputy group leader Tamás Harangozó said that
Klubrádió would lose its licence on February 15,
under a legislation which “can hardly be considered anything but a lowly political tool for [ruling] Fidesz to silence the critical media”. He added that the ruling parties could “dispel that assumption” by supporting the opposition’s proposal on the subject.
The Government Information Centre reacted by saying that while the opposition was “preoccupied with political stunts”, the government was focused on its epidemic defence measures and procuring Covid vaccines. “While the left is focused on making fake videos, pursuing a death campaign and attacking those contributing to the epidemic defence, Hungarian doctors and nurses are treating thousands of coronavirus patients in the country’s hospitals.” the centre said in a statement.
“While the left wages an anti-vaccine and anti-vaccination campaign, the government is doing everything it can to procure enough vaccines to protect the lives of the elderly, conduct mass vaccinations and reopen the country,” it added.