Hungary has declared a legal "state of danger" in response to Russia's war in neighboring Ukraine, the prime minister announced Tuesday, allowing the right-wing nationalist government to take special measures without the participation of the legislature.
In a video on social media, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the war in Ukraine represents "a constant threat to Hungary" which was "putting our physical security at risk and threatening the energy and financial security of our economy and families."
In response, he said, a "war state of danger" would take effect beginning Wednesday, allowing the government "to respond immediately and protect Hungary and Hungarian families by any means possible."
The move came after Orban's ruling party passed a constitutional amendment Tuesday allowing for legal states of danger to be declared when armed conflicts, wars or humanitarian disasters were taking place in neighboring countries.
The special legal order permits the government to enact laws by decree without parliamentary oversight, and permits the temporary suspension of and deviation from existing laws.
Hungary's government implemented similar measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to outcry from critics and legal observers, who argued they gave the government authority to rule by decree. That special legal order was set to expire on June 1.
Orban's government has been accused of eroding democratic freedoms in Hungary since taking power in 2010, and using state resources to cement its power. The governing Fidesz party won a fourth-straight election victory on April 3, giving Orban, the longest-serving leader in the European Union, an additional four-year term.
In a statement Tuesday, Emese Pasztor of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union wrote that Hungary's government was "once again adapting the rules of the game to its own needs."
"By always allowing the possibility of introducing a special legal order in the future, it will lose its special character. It will become the new normal, which will threaten the fundamental rights of all of us, and rule by decree will further diminish the importance of Parliament," Pasztor wrote.
Governmental decrees issued through the special legal order are valid for 15 days unless extended by Hungary's parliament. Orban's Fidesz party has held a two-thirds majority in parliament since 2010.