Hungary’s Parliament voted Tuesday to switch management of 11 state universities, together with billions of euros in associated state belongings, to quasi-public foundations led by shut allies of the nation’s prime minister, Viktor Orban.

Critics instantly denounced the transfer as a authorities handover of each public schooling and an unlimited community of public belongings — together with actual property and shares in Hungarian corporations — to Mr. Orban and his supporters.

According to the measure that handed Tuesday, the foundations will “ensure the realization of vital public goals” by managing the colleges extra effectively, no matter who’s in energy.

But going ahead, any adjustments to the foundations governing the foundations would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Practically talking, this implies any effort to tinker with the brand new system of oversight would require the identical stage of political assist as overhauling the Constitution.

The excessive bar for future adjustments, Minister of Innovation and Technology Laszlo Palkovics mentioned in an interview with, was chosen “in the interest of financial and legal stability.”

Critics say the switch will enable Mr. Orban and his allies to retain vital affect indefinitely — even when he’s voted out of workplace — over universities which were academically impartial. With Hungary’s beforehand divided opposition mounting a unified marketing campaign in opposition to Mr. Orban in elections scheduled for subsequent yr, he faces essentially the most vital problem in over a decade.

Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor of worldwide affairs at Princeton University, famous that the preliminary basis members are appointed by Mr. Orban’s authorities. “When openings arise, subsequent members are appointed by this board,” she mentioned. “So in effect, these are endlessly renewing Orban regimes.”

Accusations that Mr. Orban has eroded the rule of legislation and democratic values have put him on a collision course with the European Union, which is seen as one of many few significant checks on Mr. Orban’s energy.

But in late 2020, Hungary and Poland challenged the bloc’s effort to tie billions in E.U. help to the nations’ adherence to the rule of legislation. Following months of tense negotiations, which required unanimity from the E.U.’s nationwide leaders, a compromise was reached to restrict E.U. oversight to issues instantly tied to the bloc’s monetary pursuits.

Within days, Mr. Orban’s governing coalition adopted a raft of sweeping measures to curtail the rights of homosexual individuals and to make it more durable to monitor how the federal government spends public funds.

“It’s a very grotesque situation,” mentioned Balint Magyar, a sociologist, who twice served as a minister of schooling because the nation’s democratic transition. “Hungary does not have a government — what it has is a criminal organization.”

Higher schooling options prominently within the authorities’s proposal for the way it plans to use a windfall of subsidies anticipated by way of the E.U.’s coronavirus restoration fund. According to Bloomberg, Hungary has requested the E.U. to channel one-fifth of the grants it’s eligible to obtain below the bloc’s €800 billion recovery fund to the “modernization of universities.”

The framework created Tuesday, Prof. Scheppele mentioned, “removes all transparency from how E.U. funds are spent, and any assets that go into these foundations go off the public books — out of the purview of the state audit office, out of the reach of freedom of information requests, and out of all public accountability.”

An opposition lawmaker, Akos Hadhazy, likened Tuesday’s transfer to the contentious interval throughout Hungary’s democratic transition within the late 1980s and early 1990s when members of Hungary’s communist elite secured entry to key state belongings.

“He may not be preparing to lose” subsequent yr’s elections, Mr. Hadhazy mentioned of Mr. Orban, “but this will suffice in terms of a Plan B.”

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