What does the two-thirds mean in reality?

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.

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Steve
Guest
“weapon ” You presume they want to use it against someone. I would simply call it a tool. The 2/3’rd is required for changing about 4 laws, and there is a consensus that those laws needs change. There is also already some information on what/how they want those laws changed. But, Fidesz needs the 2/3 to change those laws because of the two extremist parties (one on the left, and the other on the right). Fidesz simply doesn’t want to allow those two parties to push their agendas on the government’s expense. So, no “radical measures” for Jobbik, and no prosecution immunity for corrupt MSZP members. It is quite clear, why MSZP is battling against Fidesz getting the 2/3 majority. Not because they want to protect democracy against Fidesz, but because they want that Fidesz is forced into making deals with Jobbik. If Fidesz is forced to make deals with Jobbik, then MSZP can yell all over the world, that look, here we have nazis bending the government to their will. MSZP had always tried to present Jobbik and Fidesz as the same thing. And they want to use that same formula, if Fidesz is forced into making deals with… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Steve: “Fidesz needs the 2/3 to change those laws because of the two extremist parties (one on the left, and the other on the right)”.
The problem starts right here. There is only one extremist party, Jobbik. MSZP isn’t.

P.I.Hidas
Guest

It is feared that Orban wants to imitate Putin and plans to change the Hungarian democracy to a pseudo-democracy where he and his cronies will lord over the much fooled Hungarian nationalist electorate.

Steve
Guest
@P.I.Hidas “It is feared…” It was feared in 2006 that if Gyurcsány doesn’t resign right away, the country will drift into moral crisis. In 2010 it is a bit too late to be afraid. It is not Orbán that put his cronies into positions, but Gyurcsány. And look how he did change Hungary to a pseudo-democracy, where corruption creates businessmen and shapes the laws instead of honest work and public interest. @Eva S. Balogh “MSZP isn’t.” Not the same kind of extremism as Jobbik, but when it comes to making decisions, MSZP showed that it can happily support extreme decisions. First thing that right now comes to mind, is the closing of some rail lines last year. The end result of which is now known. The result of the rail line closings is 1.4 billion saved, and 4 billion HUF lost. So the famous MSZP supported Bajnai government made an “austerity measure” of closing rail lines, which resulted in 2.6 billion HUF lost, not saved. There is a whole list of such extreme steps supported by MSZP (and SZDSZ before). I hate to make a comparison like this, but the terrible MSZP/SZDSZ governance are as extreme as Jobbik rhetoric is.… Read more »
Paul
Guest

personally i find the bankrupting of my country to be a little extreme, regardless of who does it. mszp IS extreme – extremely corrupt.

Anita
Guest

@ Steeve and @ Paul
I can see the reason for the outcry against the corrupt and many times idiotic ways of MSZP…but to put them on the same page as Jobbik, now that’s a far stretch. Mind you, the FIDESZ government before them wasn’t any less corrupt or idiotic, except they had a better economic headwind, which this time won’t be helping them.

Hank
Guest

Steve: “But, Fidesz needs the 2/3 to change those laws because of the two extremist parties (one on the left, and the other on the right.”
I can’t believe that anyone takes the childish notion of MSzP being “an extremist party on the left” seriously. You may dislike the party and its policies, you may call it stupid, corrupt, irresponsible, unfit to govern etc. (and to a large extent I agree), but calling it extremist is just stupid election rhetorics.
Hank

Steve
Guest

@Anita
Actually, the headwind during the last Fidesz government was bad too (tho not as bad as now), if you remember, the Russian economic crisis at that time was felt in Hungary too. And i presume what you refer to as “idiotic”, were their decisions appealing to conservatives (like bringing the crown into the parliament). Those things are offensive to liberals, but not to conservatives.
@Hank
It may be election rhetoric. But in basic sense of the word, does dumping ill patients onto the street from a closed hospital qualify to be extreme? I think it does. It doesn’t lessen their responsibility, that they “only” supported the government doing it, it actually makes it worse. And its just one case, books could be written about their decisions and extreme results.

GW
Guest

Hank wrote:
“You may dislike the party and its policies, you may call it stupid, corrupt, irresponsible, unfit to govern etc. (and to a large extent I agree), but calling it extremist is just stupid election rhetorics.”
This is exactly right. The most important test of a party’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law is the party’s acceptance the results of elections. Elections have consequence and the results of an election convey responsibilities to both winners and losers. These include insuring a smooth transition from one elected government to the next, entering into an active _parliamentary_ opposition when a party is not in power, and, when a party is in power, insuring that the elections at the end of their term in office are held fairly.
For whatever its faults in policy-making or administration (and for which voters have judged them), MSZP has passed this test and this should be acknowledged, while the danger, in the form of undermining democracy, posed by parties which spend their time in opposition in the streets protesting the legitimacy of an election rather than doing their work as parliamentarians also needs to be recognized.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Hank: “I can’t believe that anyone takes the childish notion of MSzP being “an extremist party on the left” seriously.”
These people don’t think. They only listen to whatever Fidesz says and that’s enough for them. If the latest slogan is : Jobbik and MSZP are extremists and we are in the middle, they believe it. Period. No questions asked. This is what is so dangerous. Hungarians were not taught to think in school. The teacher speaks and the students spout it back. Easy. Not too hard on the brain.

Paul
Guest

“These people don’t think. They only listen to whatever Fidesz says and that’s enough for them. If the latest slogan is : Jobbik and MSZP are extremists and we are in the middle, they believe it. Period. No questions asked. This is what is so dangerous. Hungarians were not taught to think in school. The teacher speaks and the students spout it back. Easy. Not too hard on the brain.”
eva, the unwavering mszp (and gyurcsany) supporter, are you really that different to those you have just described? “jobbik are extremists, neo-nazis, undemocratic, racist, facist, terrorist, iran-funded maniacs…(etc)”. does that kind of mentality remind of the brainwashed people you have just described?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “are you really that different to those you have just described? “jobbik are extremists, neo-nazis, undemocratic, racist, facist, terrorist, iran-funded maniacs…(etc)”. does that kind of mentality remind of the brainwashed people you have just described?”
But it’s enough to listen to what Jobbik politicians say. Their message is undemocratic, racist, and anti-semitic. You will not find extreme leftist talk or moves on part of MSZP. They didn’t nationalize factories, they didn’t put their political opponents into jail, they didn’t repeat anti-democratic slogans. In fact, a lot of people would say that they are not leftist enough.
I listen to these people on both sides and form my opinion accordingly. But you can’t really come up with any proof of leftist extremism in MSZP while you insist that Jobbik is not extremist in spite of what they say and what they do.

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