The speed and breadth of the transformation is unsettling political scientists, government watchdogs and rights groups. Many concede that emergency declarations and streamlining government decision-making are necessary responses to a global health threat. But they question how readily leaders will give up the powers they’ve accrued when the coronavirus eventually subsides.“This is a situation where it’s far too easy to make arguments for undue interference with civil rights and liberties,” said Tomas Valasek, a Slovak lawmaker.The country that has attracted the most notice for a lurch backward from democratic reforms is Hungary, which last month handed Prime Minister Viktor Orban near-dictatorial powers. Orban was already facing the prospect of sanctions from the European Union over concerns he had packed courts with loyalists, closed down opposition media outlets and overhauled the country’s constitution to ensure he remains in power. The new measure gives him authority to legislate by decree, free from parliamentary oversight, for as long as he deems necessary to fight the coronavirus, and it imposes steep penalties for spreading “false information” — a step that critics fear will be used to further crack down on the opposition.But even countries with robust traditions of freedom and dissent have imposed measures


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