Why Viktor Orbán doesn’t, and why Hungary does need a constitution by S.K.

The article of April 1st gave me another impetus to consider whether it is possible to undo the damage the impending new constitution is about to wreak on Hungary. This is not the first time this question occurred to me and the article reanimated my earlier ideas on the subject. These musings might be considered an extended comment, or another approach, looking at the other side of the same coin.

Although the constitutional bickering over Fidesz’s legislative agenda may well explain their need to smooth the way for themselves, I don’t think this is their fundamental reason for the new constitution. Nor do I think that the unseemly rush into the process is necessary to enable more hair-raising legislation. After all, there is a universal agreement about the fact that, except for Orbán’s desires, there is no constitutional pressure – the existing one is quite serviceable.

It seems to me that the impetus came from Jobbik. They demanded a new constitution quite early, purely for ideological reasons, and because they were very noisy, Orbán recognized the opportunity for a double-barreled constitution that will grease the way for the legislative meanderings as well as solidify their long-term hegemony. At the same time he could overtake this Jobbik agenda item and turn it to his own benefit. The “side issues,” such as the matter of the Holy Crown, the inclusion of Christian heritage and the general curtailing of civil liberties are, from their point of view, just welcome additions to make their rule the smooth coasting they think it will provide.

Needless to say that the two-thirds majority that Fidesz regards as the ultima ratio and the empowerment for conjuring up the new constitution is possibly a necessary, but perhaps insufficient ground for enacting it. It was Orbán himself who challenged the legitimacy of the Gyurcsány government after the then premier’s famous “őszödi speech,” stating that there was a difference between the legality and the legitimacy of the government. The voters gave a majority to the Gyurcsány government based on their program, but the government is doing something else, in fact the opposite of that program, therefore they don’t have the support of the electorate. Based on that argument, regardless of whether it is correct or not, the constitutional shenanigans of the Orbán regime are glaringly illegitimate. In more sober times this might be an argument to overthrow the new constitution.

Another serious fault is that the new constitution is riddled with internal contradictions and inconsistencies. It is also in conflict with international law that Hungary is bound by. These conflicts cannot be reconciled in any other way but by jettisoning the whole construct.

A further mind-boggling prospect is that they make the constitution so intractable that, when in a few years all the problems come to the fore and corrections will be unavoidable, even they, with the two-thirds, will be unable to make the correction and it will crumble into their lap. The same thing may easily happen with their tax legislation, calcified into the constitution, and at the end they will depend on the mercy of their hated opposition for the correction. At that point, of course, the game would be up with a self-inflicted checkmate. (Provided that the opposition would be principled enough to resist the pressure.)

Can Fidesz last twenty years? Can they win the next election?

Both questions are too early to ask and even earlier to answer. However, it is clear they are losing public support rapidly. And the more they press forward, paying less and less attention to the expectations at large, the more rapidly are they losing the support of the electorate. I am sure they will use every possible trick in the book to assure their victory, but at the present rate they will use up the people’s good will in another year and a half. So far the loss amounts to one third of their supporters. It is not difficult to calculate what is left when one third of the two-thirds is gone. Especially when it wasn’t two-thirds of the people who voted for Fidesz but only 53%. At the moment there is no creditable opposition in the parliament, or anywhere else. My expectation, however, is that the general disapproval will inevitably congeal around some social force which has not yet formed, or will evolve from some small so far invisible formation. I wouldn’t bury Gyurcsány either. In any case, the twenty years is out of the question. For that to happen we would need a very tranquil country in very tranquil times, or the most formidable statesman. We don’t have either. Hungary’s history is especially poor in long-reigning premiers, only our dictators usually last. Perhaps this is why Orbán is eyeing the job. But he is doing more then just eyeing the job, he is enterprising to clear away all obstacles from the way of unfettered Fidesz hegemony. Some of those obstacles are the opposition and the constitution itself. Therefore, it appears that Orbán really doesn’t need and doesn’t want a constitution. His aim is to replace it with another, Fidesz-friendly hodgepodge.

Will the Fidesz construct serve for twenty or more years? Would it be possible to undo the damage later and if so what is required to do it?

The way they are going, the tenure of Fidesz promises to be short, even if they have not yet realized it. The successors may benefit and reach an overwhelming majority in parliament at the next election. Faced with the paralysis, imposed by the constitution, they will have, as the first line of attack, the question of legitimacy. The presently proposed changes are technically legal but can be challenged on the ground of legitimacy.

By renaming, or re-registering institutions, thus declaring them defunct, Fidesz opened the way to replacing them with their own and populating them with their own coterie. This avenue will be open to the successors to get rid of the solicitor general, the media authority and the rest of the Fidesz-made institutions.

The Constitutional Court might find that the legislative process in the forging of the constitution was contrary to the old, as well as to the new constitution and render it null and void.

Just as the electoral pendulum keeps swinging to further and further extremes, it is quite plausible that the next election might result in a Fidesz-less parliament. The fact that presently there isn’t effective opposition doesn’t mean much, because the next parliament will be filled with some kinds of members, inevitably smarting from the experience, and determined to correct the impossible state of affairs. In this case, regardless of party affiliation, they will have no choice other than to return the country to the constitutional republic state.

Before I am accused of pathological optimism, however, I must admit there is another prospect, far too horrendous to contemplate. The Hungarian electorate in its disappointment may not turn to moderate alternatives, but rather continue the march to the right and after the Fidesz self-distraction elevate the Jobbik, or some other ultra-right formation into government. That is entirely possible, under no circumstances could be ruled out and should it happen, if you think the country is on the way to disintegration now, just wait to see what those nice nazis can make of it.

 

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Odin's lost eye
Guest
Within Hungary, everyone is focusing on the ‘Super Majority’ within the existing Parliament held by Fidesz and the possible ‘Hyper Majority’ of the Fidesz/Jobbik axis. Fidesz may lose its popularity at the polls BUT and it is a ‘big but’ so long as the ranks of Fidesz MPs stand firm in Parliament this is of no importance until the next polling day. Until that day public support for the Government is of NO consequence at all so long as the Government have the support of police/army. There is one almost insignificant mention of the time bomb (of almost thermo-nuclear proportions) ticking away in the corner. S.K. you mention it in passing and I quote * “It is also in conflict with international law that Hungary is bound by.” * This one little sentence is going to be the big problem for ‘His Mightiness’s’ (OV) ambitions. Quite apart from the Treaty of Accession to the EU and its subsequent legislation, which could leave Fidesz’s plans ‘dead in the water’. There is the Schengen agreement; this will cause big problems not only with Austria/Germany etc but also with China who sees Hungary (with its ability for Hokey-Pokey) as a way to circumvent… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest

This is formal idiocy.
Orbán repeatedly said, before the elections, that Hungary needs a new constitution. This is reported and proven.
Any claim that opposes this is a lie. So is this article.

Johnny Boy
Guest

This miserable attempt at an article is so full of completely unfounded baloney that the poster doesn’t even try to back up. Like this:
“The Constitutional Court might find that the legislative process in the forging of the constitution was contrary to the old, as well as to the new constitution and render it null and void.”
Apart from the fact that the Constitutional Court can by no means declare any legislative process on the constitution unconstitutional, where is at least one argument that supports this nonsensical claim?
Is the standard here really so low as this article?

Minusio
Guest

I keep reading that big hopes are pinned on the next election or the next “polling day”. And how the constitution can be rectified by the next majority.
What election? You have all seen how – by the drop of a hat – Orbán was able to change the law for the municipal elections.
What – if you have the courage not to be optimistic – makes you think that Orbán won’t do something similar in 2014? Or “postpone” the elections altogether because of some national emergency (of his own doing)?
Orbán is true to himself, and one can easily extrapolate his strategems. So I expect there will be no need for an electorate to turn to even worse prophets. In fact, there is no need for an electorate. It voted itself out of power for the foreseeable future.
Ah yes, and there is the EU. If it finds the time to look into matters Hungarian it will not like Hungary’s behaviour. However, EU procedures take a long time, majorities are shifting all the while, and finally some exclusion procedure might have to be initiated. But this won’t be a quick remedy.
Ceterum censeo: Don’t feed the trolls.

kis fiu
Guest

I have to agree with Minusio. Certainly Orban has the power to do whatever he wants. He probably thinks that he is the savior of the Hungarian people (ie a real democrat) so I imagine there will be elections but they will be fixed to make sure the result is in line with what the Hungarian people “need” according to Orban. It will be interesting. It is not hard to predict that a large majority of Hungarians will be thoroughly dissatisfied with Orban well before 2014, but I imagine the Fidesz die-hards wont realize what is going on till well past that. I can just see Johnny Boy blaming gypsies, Jews, homosexuals, the EU, America, and especially Eva for all of Hungary’s problems 5 and 10 years down the road.

Sandor
Guest

Well, Johnny Boy, the quoted passage itself is an argument, so it doesn’t need an argument to support it. However, as it happens, just one day later an expert opinion is published exactly on this point here:
http://nol.hu/lap/mo/20110405-mindentelolrol_kezdenek
and this opinion similarly interpolates the possible developments as the posting does.
Judging by your sanguine demeanor and contemptible style, you must be HUngarian enough to read that article. But my expectations are modest, I doubt that you will.

Kirsten
Guest
For me it seems that there is some fundamental problem, either for Fidesz or for a broader group of people, in the understanding of “rule of law” and what the legal system should bring about in a modern society. I think that one of the first principles of a constitution should be that it is devoid of inconsistencies. Otherwise no order through law and not through the will of some individuals can be achieved. It should also make orderly change possible. And although law is derived from some unquestioned principles and there is the idea that law is accepted by the “nation”, there are transparent mechanism how law is created and enforced. No mythical body called “will of the nation” or “eternal majority” appear to be modern principles of a constitutional state. I am wondering whether (as with the Doctrine of the Holy Crown) there is more medieval-type law or law theory “wandering around” that Fidesz could refer to as “traditional Hungarian law”. Or is there such disillusionment with the “rule of law” that people just don’t care? But in any case, to think how one could legally dismantle the Orban state with the many “harmonious” new laws and the… Read more »
oana t
Guest

I am a Romanian American that has been living in Budapest for the past 7 years. I am not dependent on a Hungarian paycheck. I am a dental student, about to graduate.
I have learnt Hungarian, fell in love with the people…however, many doctors around me had such high hopes for Orban, and now every one of them is disappointed. What happened? Are people this extreme, going from love to not love, so sudden, so fast? Or he really is not as smart as we thought. Eva, your writing brightens my day, as I try to figure out this nation that is not as poor as Romania, but still complains to high Heaven about not getting what they want. I really appreciate your ideas, every day.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Sandor: “Well, Johnny Boy, the quoted passage itself is an argument”
Not it doesn’t even resemble an argument. It is just a completely unfounded claim without any attempt to connect it to reality whatsoever.
“http://nol.hu/lap/mo/20110405-mindentelolrol_kezdenek
and this opinion similarly interpolates the possible developments as the posting does.”
No it doesn’t. Not one bit. The constitution cannot be unconstitutional because there is no supreme law to the constitution and there are no laws for the process of crafting it except for the required 2/3 majority which is given. It’s that simple. Wish you may, that Orbán and the government will fail, but they will not. Accept it.
“I doubt that you will.”
I did read the article but Szabad Nép’s articles don’t really make a difference in what happens in reality. They are very loosely connected to the stark realities.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest
oana t: “I really appreciate your ideas, every day.” And you made my day. Thank you very much. Every time I read something like that I tell myself: it is worth it after all. As for the doctors. The disappointment was bound to happen and the only thing I don’t understand is how Hungarian doctors could be so naive as to believe that they will get everything they desire once Viktor Orbán is in power. As for Orbán’s mental powers. I think he is smart when it comes to destroying his opponents but he is lousy at governing. The 1998-2002 period was also terrible. He managed to alienate all the neighbors and the west and while he received in 1998 a healthy economy by 2002 things began to deteriorate. But at least then he didn’t have absolute power what he has now. The most frightening thing is that people are afraid. I bet that even the opinion polls that show substantial loss of popularity for Fidesz are not giving the whole picture. People are afraid to tell the truth when asked about their party preferences. And you know what? I don’t even blame them. Orbán and his crew are vicious.… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Hopefully for the only time in my life, I find myself in agreement with ‘Johnny’, this article truly is well below the standard we have come to expect on HS.
Éva, I know you are snowed under at the moment, but I would rather not have a post every day, so you can rest and catch up, than have the high standard you have set on HS damaged by rubbish like this.

Kirsten
Guest

Éva: “The most frightening thing is that people are afraid.”
For me also it is frightening that people have reason to be afraid, i.e. that there are sufficient people who do play OV’s game. (And it need not be only “Kennies”.) But it is still necessary for those who are now disappointed to understand that it is themselves who can change it (sounds as if communism were back…).

Paul
Guest

A little snippet that may or may not mean anything re Fidesz losing support, who will be the new opposition, etc:
A cousin of my wife’s, until now orange through and through, has just had her ‘medical pension’ (?) withdrawn. She had a serious illness some years ago which prevented her from doing her job and was declared unfit for work. But now she is deemed to be over that and fit, if not for original job, at least for general office work.
She didn’t take this news too well, and has spent the last few days telephoning various family members to tell them what a bunch of gecík (for want of a better word) Fidesz are and that’s she’s never going to vote for them again.
So who is she going to vote for next time? “Jobbik, of course!”

Member

@Johnny “Constitutional Court can by no means declare any legislative process on the constitution unconstitutional”
This is not a claim that needs to be supported (I’m glad that you didn’t call it a lie). We are brainstorming here what kind of backdoors your idols will leave open for bright lawyers to exploit when this delirious gang will have to leave the Orszaghaz (parliament). Trust me. Considering their intelligence there will be plenty of ways to question the legitimacy of this … at home people started to call it “takolmany” instead of “alkotmany” (hodge-podge (?) instead of constitution). You see, the pre 90 constitution was crafted by a party who regularly got 99% of the votes and yet we are going to have the second constitution since 90. How hard could it be to do another one?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul, S.K. has a different opinion on certain things. That’s all. Why don’t you argue with him?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “For me also it is frightening that people have reason to be afraid, i.e. that there are sufficient people who do play OV’s game.”
Yes, I’m afraid they have every reason to be afraid. My cousin who has never been the bravest person keeps asking me whether I’m not afraid that something might happen to me. When I ask what on earth could VO do to me in the United States, she can’t give a rational answer but keeps repeating that “these people have their ways.”

Member

To continue the what-if game on the constitution and for a change not to write something to directly piss of our house pet …
I don’t think we should be very concerned about changing constitution again. The day will come. Instead the first post-Fidesz era government will have to concentrate on everyday problems. It will be something this: government will propose something, FIDESZ minority will hold up their constitution saying, no can do. Ok, let’s ask the lawyers … then the layers of the 2 camps will face of for a few days, meanwhile the press will nicely underscore who is obstructing the legislative work, then the parliament will say, screw it. Done. In short thing is so vague it will be very easy to “interpret” it …

Member

“oana”: are people this extreme, going from love to not love, so sudden, so fast?” I think they just have been screwed way to many times…. (sorry for the language)
AT the same time Orban again made a statement in the parliament, roughly said that ‘Us’ (and I am not sure id he referred to Hungarians in general or Fidesz, Jobbik, etc.), We do cannot accept that “We believe in the European Union. So forth we do not believe in the European Union. ” Lovely!!!! THe remaining part of his speech is even more disturbing, so I will not go on.
An other interesting point, when Gyurcsany hot bottom, Orban wanted an election and wanted to topple as Gyurcsany was not able to represent the people who elected him as they turned their back. Is this apply for Fidesz now?

Johnny Boy
Guest
Mutt Damon: low quality snivelling comments like “tákolmány” don’t make the new constitution illegitimate. Such comments merely provide the not so surprising information that some low quality people who never ever voted for Fidesz anyway don’t like the constitution. They have no other reason against it though except that it’s Orbán presenting it, but that’s enough for them. But I think Hungary will survive the saaaad awareness that a handful of people who probably never made anything meaningful in their lives anyway don’t like the outcome of last year’s elections. “How hard could it be to do another one?” Very hard, as we couldn’t do it during the past 20 years, and we are alone with this fact in the region. Now it comes to an end, finally. Eva: “Why don’t you argue with him?” Say, have you ever seen Paul argue with anyone? His arguing with me consists of him labelling me a troll, and his arguing with S.K. consists of him labelling his posts rubbish. (With which I agree, but this attribute doesn’t make it stand out on this blog.) And this will most probably remain so, this is how our extremely simplistic Paul works. someone: “THe remaining… Read more »
Member

Jonny Boy: “someone: “THe remaining part of his speech is even more disturbing, so I will not go on.”
And well you do so, otherwise it would be obvious that he attached a very important addition to the statement you quoted, and it would become obvious what he meant and that you are falsifying his message.”
OK Johnny Boy, yuo are right! I falsified it, because he was even more straight about his priorities. Orban sides with the Jobbik and Christian Democrats, as again he compares the relationship of Brussel and Hungary to those of Hungary and Moscow under the Soviets, and Hungay to Vienna under that Austro Hungarian Empire. He expects that the European Union will serve kind of like a smorgasbord and until we can pick what we like that is cool, and in the process he hopes that EU will find something that will be of their benefit, but otherwise that is that.
Thanks Johnny for helping me clarify.

Paul
Guest
“Paul, S.K. has a different opinion on certain things. That’s all. Why don’t you argue with him?” Éva, I don’t argue with SK for a number of reasons: First, the same reason that I don’t argue with ‘Kenny’ – I don’t want to give them the impression that anything they say is worth arguing about. It isn’t. Secondly, his writing style is so convoluted and rambling that it’s often very difficult to work out what he is actually saying. And at times he appears to be arguing against himself anyway, so why should I join in? And last, and perhaps most importantly, what is there to argue against? He appears to be saying “it’s a mess and it will all end in tears”, and how many of us would disagree with that? Of course he may be arguing the opposite, but life is just too short to try to analyse his ramblings to see what he is really getting at. SK’s articles are rambling, unstructured, repetitive (and, oddly, sometimes self-contradictory), contain nothing new, and often make wild statements that cannot be supported by sources. I learn nothing from them – except how not to write. I’ve nothing in particular against… Read more »
Paul
Guest
‘Kenny’: “Say, have you ever seen Paul argue with anyone?” I would hope you haven’t. I might occasionally debate something of mutual interest with a fellow commenter, but I rarely, if ever, argue with anyone. It is generally a completely non-productive experience (as the you trolls know only too well – it is your reason for being), and I have many better things to do with my time. What I do do is express my opinions, describe my experiences, pass on information I think might inform (or amuse), and occasionally ask others for clarification of something they’ve said, or sources for something they have claimed as fact. All positive uses of my time, and hopefully not a complete waste of time for those choosing to read my comments. And, of course, I enjoy the odd moments of troll baiting. Always a worthwhile and enjoyable sport. But why all the above should be dismissed just because I am deemed never to argue with anyone is utterly beyond me. But then I never have understood the entirely negative and aggressive style of writing and speaking so common amongst the extreme right. It doesn’t seem to add anything to the positive side of… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest

someone: that’s a lie. Orbán continued the part which you quoted as “we do not believe in the EU” saying the EU is for us not something to be believed in, it is a pragmatic community of countries to which we must fit ourselves in and benefit from it.
And this shows how you falsified Orbán’s message. You pretended as if all he said was something against the EU, yet he did the opposite, his message was positive but with a different approach only.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Making an exception here now but I can’t stand not responding to such tosh:
“But, returning to my occasional requests for verification and sources, I note that almost all of these have been aimed at you, and, strangely, you have answered not one of them.”
I answered to practically each of your questions but you consistently ignored them. Look them up, starting from the times when I was writing under the name Pásztor Szilárd (woohoo, a huge ‘secret’ unveiled here, see?)
Then I stopped giving any explanations because I felt I was talking to deaf ears.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: “Orbán continued the part which you quoted as “we do not believe in the EU” saying the EU is for us not something to be believed in, it is a pragmatic community of countries to which we must fit ourselves in and benefit from it.”
Indeed, this is what he said. Let’s squeeze all the money we can get from the EU and go against it at every turn. That’s Orbán’s philosophy. I wonder how long the EU will put up with this.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Eva: “Let’s squeeze all the money we can get from the EU and go against it at every turn. That’s Orbán’s philosophy. I wonder how long the EU will put up with this.”
Sorry for crushing your dreams, but this is all the EU is about. Other EU member states do exactly the same, they fight for the highest benefits they can gain. The EU is a ground for assertiveness and lobbying.
Meanwhile, I can’t help not understanding your basic message: it is bad that Orbán wants to gain as much as possible from the EU for Hungary.
And you still wonder why I consider it obvious that your aim is to hurt Hungary under the faint cover of caring for it?
Anyway, thanks for confirming my words and helping me point out how ‘someone’ simply falsified the message here.

Member

@Johnny Aren’t you a gipsy? I mean I keep hearing from you that gipsys are stealing other people’s money and run. Do you think the German taxpayers are stupid? If you piss them off they will leave us in a punch when we’ll really need them. Thanks Johnny & Orban!

Ron
Guest

Johnny Boy: Sorry for crushing your dreams, but this is all the EU is about. Other EU member states do exactly the same, they fight for the highest benefits they can gain. The EU is a ground for assertiveness and lobbying.
Well somebody needs to pay for these expenses, here the 2009 contribution and expenses, among other things:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_statistics
For 2011 the expenses will be much lower for Hungary, and they may be even a contributor. Well done VO

Johnny Boy
Guest

“For 2011 the expenses will be much lower for Hungary, and they may be even a contributor. Well done VO”
Now please decide. Which is bad, if Hungary gets money from the EU or if we’re paying to the EU?

Ron
Guest
Johnny Boy I thought you understand what I was saying. In 2009 Hungary received more from the EU (EU=expense) than Hungary pay to the EU (EU=contribution). In 2011 Hungary pay more to the EU (EU=contribution) than Hungary receives from the EU (EU = expense) If the payment from Hungary to the EU is higher than money Hungary receive from the EU, than Hungary is net contributor. If the balance is the other way than Hungary is net receiver. The contribution is made up from VAT and other sources which Hungary is legal bind to. However, the expenses is based upon among other things grants received from the EU, which will be more or less zero as Hungary withdraw claims on subsidies for various projects this year. As a result the expenses (read: EU expenses) will be much lower. In so far that the contribution Hungary pays to the EU is higher than what Hungary receives from the EU. What is bad is that Hungary is net payer, because they do not their options to collect more money, but they are entitled to. It would be good if Hungary is net payer, because they are not entitled to have more money,… Read more »
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