There is so much talk about the dreaded two-thirds majority, yet I'll bet few people know what it might entail. What kind of legislation can be enacted by a two-thirds majority? The list is long and some of its provisions don't have practical consequences. After all, it is unlikely that the Orbán government by virtue of having a two-thirds majority in parliament would declare war. But in the long list one can find some items that are worrisome in the event the government in power doesn't exercise restraint.
The list is divided into two parts. There are pieces of legislation that can be enacted by a two-thirds majority of all 386 members of parliament and there are those that can become law if two-thirds of the legislators present vote for it. Obviously the more weighty decisions can be found in the first category.
First and foremost an absolute two-thirds majority is necessary for the declaration of war and the conclusion of peace. A state of emergency either because of foreign invasion or internal threat can be declared only by two-thirds of all representatives. A two-thirds majority is also necessary to sign or abrogate international treaties. Let's say that the government in power would like to sever relations with the European Union. In this case such a momentous decision would be in the hands of a single party representing, let's say, about half of the population.
The election of the president would be straightforward: the government party's choice would sail through on the first day of voting. Moreover, if a president for one reason or another were not to the liking of the government party he could just as easily be removed. The election of the members of the Constitutional Court also depends on an absolute two-thirds majority. Again, a government party would be able to nominate and easily elect judges of a particular political stripe. The same is true about the nomination and election of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the head of the Accounting Office (Állami Számvevőszék). I might mention here that Fidesz most likely has plans as far as the head of the Accounting Office is concerned because they refused to vote for the reappointment of Árpád Kovács, head of the office between 1997 and 2009 to everybody's satisfaction.
We can now move on to the second category: the list of legislative acts that require a two-thirds majority of those present. Any change in parliamentary rules can easily be introduced and accepted as can the remuneration of members of parliament. A party with a two-thirds majority can also decide the fate of members of parliament from the opposition parties. It can simply begin procedures against them based on an alleged conflict of interest that normally leads to expulsion. A two-thirds vote is also necessary to hold a nationwide referendum or to decide on the employment of the Hungarian armed forces. We may recall when Fidesz in opposition refused to support a certain use of Hungarian forces in Iraq that eventually resulted in much more dangerous work, driving trucks along a road on which roadside bombs were exploding daily. This time the government would not have to take into consideration the opposition's views.
A two-thirds majority of members present is required for the enactment of legislation affecting many aspects of government. For example, any change in the present law concerning the status of local governments. A change here is certainly in order, and several times in the last eight years the government tried to attack the problem but Fidesz refused to cooperate. Now, according to László Kövér's announcement, one of the first tasks of the second Orbán government will be a drastic reduction in their number and in the size of the city/town councils. That would be a good move. Too bad that from opposition Fidesz refused to support it. I wonder, though, what the mostly Fidesz-led local governments will think of such a change in their status.
A slew of existing laws can be changed, including ones affecting the courts, freedom of movement, the free exercise of religion, freedom of assembly, citizenship, the right to strike, military service (which at the moment is voluntary but which doesn't seem to be to the liking of Fidesz), and one could go on and on.
In brief, a two-thirds majority is a dangerous weapon in the hands of a party that wants more than a change of administration; it wants a change of regime.