As countries around the world struggle to get the coronavirus pandemic under control, some governments are using the opportunity to increase their power. Many people worry that the governments will not give up this power once the crisis is over.
The clearest example of the coronavirus crisis being used to grab power is in Hungary. Hungary’s parliament is controlled by Fidesz, the political party of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. In late March, though many politicians opposed the move, Parliament gave Mr. Orbán "emergency powers" because of the coronavirus crisis.
The new powers will allow Mr. Orbán to make laws and rules by himself without requiring approval from Parliament. This is sometimes called “ruling by decree”. Hungary is supposed to be a democracy, but it is highly unusual for a politician to rule by decree in a democracy.
What’s worrying for many people is that though the powers were given because of the coronavirus, there are no time limits on Mr. Orbán’s new powers. Supporters of the plan point out that Parliament can still vote to take away Mr. Orbán’s new powers.
Mr. Orbán has been gathering power over the last 10 years. He now has greater control over Hungary’s courts and media. Many people worry that the new powers will allow Mr. Orbán even greater control over what reporters can say and do in the country.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has also been accused of using the coronavirus to cover his attempts at grabbing power.
Many countries have ordered lockdowns, and have even given people fines or put people in jail for breaking lockdown rules. Mr. Duterte went much farther than that. He warned Filipinos that if they broke the lockdown rules, police would “shoot them dead”.
Last week, the country’s largest media company, ABS-CBN, was forced to shut down its 42 TV channels and 23 radio stations. ABS-CBN’s Channel 2 is the country’s most popular channel, where Mr. Duterte’s government has sometimes been criticized.
ABS-CBN has become a target of Mr. Duterte, who has threatened to shut it down. On May 4, the company’s 25-year license ran out. Congress has delayed approving a new license for the company.
The NTC – the government group in charge of TV and radio stations – ordered the company to go off the air. The government’s top lawyer says that it will charge the NTC with crimes if it allows ABS-CBN back on the air without approval from Congress.
The shutdown has caused complaints around the country. Many people believe Mr. Duterte’s government is using the coronavirus crisis as a cover for shutting the company down.
ABS-CBN is taking the case to the Supreme Court. The company says that now it is more important than ever for it to stay on the air, to keep people informed about the coronavirus situation.