MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The coronavirus pandemic has posed extraordinary challenges to governments all over the world. For some, it has additionally offered extraordinary alternatives. We will hear now from three of our international correspondents who’ve been watching leaders manipulate the disaster to their benefit – Joanna Kakissis, who’s lined Hungarian politics these final a number of years and is conserving her eye on Prime Minister Viktor Orban; NPR’s Julie McCarthy, our Southeast Asia correspondent who covers the Philippines; and NPR’s Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem.
All three of you – welcome.
DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Thanks.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Hello, Mary Louise.
JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Thanks.
KELLY: All proper. Joanna, you begin. This week, on Monday, Hungary’s parliament handed new emergency powers for Prime Minister Orban. What precisely can he do now that he could not earlier than?
KAKISSIS: Properly, he can do just about no matter he needs. This can be a very sweeping legislation, and it sidelines parliament and lets Viktor Orban rule by decree. And what meaning is that his authorities can do no matter it deems essential to battle the coronavirus, which formally has contaminated no less than 585 individuals and killed no less than 21. And theoretically, parliament, , can vote to finish these powers. However , that is not going to occur as a result of Orban’s celebration, Fidesz, controls two-thirds of parliament.
And one other concern is that there is no sundown clause on this legislation, so there’s severe concern that this one-man rule goes to go on indefinitely as a result of the legislation additionally suspends elections. You understand, Orban has invoked emergency legislation earlier than in 2015. He gave police free reign through the European migration disaster. And his majority in parliament simply retains renewing that legislation. So now there’s concern Orban will simply do the identical with this pandemic legislation.
KELLY: Wow. So elections suspended – would not sound like there is a sundown clause. Julie, how does that evaluate to what’s taking place within the Philippines, the place Congress has additionally granted emergency powers to the president, Rodrigo Duterte, to take care of COVID-19? What was in that invoice? What can he do now?
MCCARTHY: Properly, he can now take over non-public hospitals to quarantine well being care employees and take over public transportation to get them to work. The COVID-19 has taken an alarming toll on well being employees, notably medical doctors. And when it first arrived, Duterte performed it down. However earlier than lengthy, he had ordered 50 million Filipinos locked down. You needed to keep house. You continue to do.
And this week, he condemned Filipinos who’re harassing these hospital employees, which is occurring due to the concern of this pandemic. However he is invoking the identical harsh language we hear in his drug battle. He is threatening to shoot anybody who creates, quote, “chaos.” And he has these new troubling powers to crack down on pretend information. And critics say, look; that makes him the arbiter of the information. It is susceptible to abuse, and it chills the press.
KELLY: Oh, that is attention-grabbing. Joanna, I would love to listen to a fast response to you on that one as a result of pretend information is one thing that Viktor Orban in Hungary has been recognized to speak about. He was an early adopter of that time period. Does he have extra energy over the press now?
KAKISSIS: Sure, he does. This new legislation – it amends the prison code to introduce jail sentences of as much as 5 years for deliberately spreading what the federal government deems pretend information in regards to the coronavirus pandemic. And that is worrying the few unbiased media retailers in Hungary as a result of it is the federal government that will get to outline what pretend information is. And they also’re anticipating to get punished for simply, , publishing tales that query Orban’s dealing with of the pandemic.
KELLY: All proper. Let’s flip to the Center East and convey you in, Daniel, from Jerusalem. When the coronavirus appeared in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in a really unsure area. He had – there was an inconclusive election – one other inconclusive election in Israel. Netanyahu had been indicted on corruption expenses. He’s now additionally discovering methods on this second to place himself on firmer political floor.
ESTRIN: He has discovered firmer political floor. You understand, earlier than the virus, it appeared as if he is perhaps on his approach out of workplace as a result of his opposition had the higher hand. His primary opponent, Benny Gantz, was truly appointed to attempt to kind the federal government. After which he – Netanyahu was days away from showing in court docket to face bribery and fraud expenses. So issues weren’t wanting good for Benjamin Netanyahu.
After which the coronavirus disaster hit, and his fortunes fully modified. He turned the face of Israel’s coronavirus response. He began showing on TV nightly, principally giving him this bully pulpit the place he addresses the cameras. He takes no questions from the press. And his authorities declared a coronavirus state of emergency. So…
KELLY: I am going to simply be aware these TV briefings sound very acquainted to these of us watching a president right here in Washington additionally capitalize on coronavirus and TV briefings. However go on.
ESTRIN: Proper. Properly, what occurred in Israel was that the majority court docket exercise was frozen due to the state of emergency. After which Netanyahu’s corruption trial acquired postponed. His speaker of parliament then froze parliament, the place the center-left had a slight majority. After which the large second occurred. Netanyahu’s opponent, Benny Gantz, merely folded. He mentioned the coronavirus disaster required unity. And it seems to be like he’ll let Netanyahu keep in workplace.
KELLY: So some shrewd maneuvering from the entire leaders you are describing there, which prompts me to ask, what are the remaining checks on their energy? What’s the pushback towards any of those leaders? Joanna, you first once more.
KAKISSIS: You understand, Orban has truly gotten surprisingly little pushback. And initially, he appeared to get none. The European Fee president, Ursula von der Leyen – she put out this very tepid assertion, , saying, , member states shouldn’t weaken democratic values. However she by no means known as out Hungary or Orban by title.
And , this made Orban truly push the envelope much more. Simply on Tuesday, he tried to strip Hungary’s mayors of political financial system, however he ended up dropping that due to this big uproar in Budapest. After which since then – , since that day, since that failed invoice, an increasing number of EU nations at the moment are condemning Orban for gutting democracy in a European nation.
KELLY: Julie, what about within the Philippines – President Duterte capable of just about plow by way of the opposition?
MCCARTHY: Properly, yeah, he is often ready to do this, however there was an attention-grabbing cease right here. He actually wished energy to take over non-public enterprise, notably the non-public utility corporations. However even Duterte’s allies could not muster the votes to offer him energy to grab non-public corporations. So we’re seeing limits to energy grabs, even for a president like Duterte with a 70%-plus approval ranking.
And I would add yet another factor. You understand, leaders who’re asking for these powers and getting them might very effectively be held to account when issues go mistaken. So there is a double-edged sword to those strikes to amass extra energy.
KELLY: And Daniel, what about in Israel? Is the general public on board with Netanyahu’s efforts to consolidate management?
ESTRIN: Properly, at first, his critics accused him of staging a corona coup. However what? There are greater than 6,000 instances of the virus. Not less than 33 have died. And if you have a look at the general public opinion polls right here, evidently individuals are simply too apprehensive in regards to the virus to care about this – these political machinations – most individuals, no less than. A ballot reveals that almost all of Benny Gantz – his voters would relatively him be part of Netanyahu’s authorities and be a type of centrist mediating pressure. And by the best way, Netanyahu is now in quarantine as a result of his well being minister examined constructive for the virus. So this virus is simply taking on the whole lot in politics right here.
KELLY: That’s NPR’s Daniel Estrin, Julie McCarthy and Joanna Kakissis with a snapshot there of how leaders in three elements of the world – the Center East, Asia and Europe – are discovering methods to show the coronavirus disaster to their political benefit.
Due to all of you.
KAKISSIS: Good speaking to you, Mary Louise.
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