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Wannabe autocrats love the COVID-19 pandemic

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Berlin – Like war, pestilence requires unusual measures, including some that curtail civil liberties. That’s also why aspiring autocrats secretly love such emergencies. When, if not now and in the name of public health, is a better time to usurp total power, eliminate opposition and discreetly bury liberty?

Take, for instance, two wannabe dictators in the European Union, which fancies itself a club of law-abiding democracies. One is Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, a nation that he’s shaped into an “illiberal democracy,” in his own proud words. The other is Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of the ruling Law & Justice (PiS) party and de facto ruler of Poland. Both are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a flimsy pretext to establish dictatorships in all but name.

This week, Orban had his pliant legislature adopt an “empowerment law.” It lets him rule by decree, and without any time limit whatsoever. The new law also allows Orban to suspend any previous law he doesn’t like and changes the criminal code so that Orban’s government can imprison........

© The Japan Times