Paul Krugman and Kim Lane Scheppele on today’s Hungary

In the December 11 issue of The New York Times the Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, one of the regular columnists of the paper’s op/ed page, wrote an article entitled “Depression and Democracy.” Paul Krugman is Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.

In about half of his article Professor Krugman spoke in general about economic hard times and their connections to the rise of right-wing populism. He referred to a recent survey that documented “a sharp drop in public support for democracy in the ‘new E.U.’ countries, the nations that joined the European Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall.” In this connection he singled out Hungary as one nation where “democratic institutions are being undermined as we speak.” He mentioned Jobbik as “a nightmare out of the 1930″s but, he added, “the immediate threat comes from Fidesz, the governing center-right party.”

Krugman

Paul Krugman

Not surprisingly the Hungarian media immediately latched onto this remarkable article and discovered that some of the information on Hungary came from Paul Krugman’s colleague at Princeton, Kim Lane Scheppele, Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs and the director of Princeton’s Law and Public Affairs Program. Professor Scheppele knows Hungary intimately. In fact, she lived in Hungary for a number of years between 1994 and 2004. Her field is comparative constitutional law and therefore she has been closely following the Orbán government’s speedy enactment of a new constitution.Professor Krugman pointed to “the overlapping measures” that are being introduced in Hungary to “suppress opposition.” He specifically mentioned the new election law that will give undue advantage to Fidesz, the judicial independence that is being compromised, and a state-run media that have been converted into party organs. “Taken together, all this amounts to the re-establishment of authoritarian rule, under a paper-thin veneer of democracy, in the heart of Europe.” According to Professor Krugman “the European Union missed the chance to head off the power grab at the start.” He warned the European Union “to rethink their failing economic policies. If they don’t, there will be more backsliding on democracy–and the breakup of the euro may be the least of their worries.”

 

Kim Lane Scheppele

Since Paul Krugman’s article was extensively summarized in Népszabadság and translated verbatim in Galamus several Hungarian newspapers asked for an interview with Kim Scheppele. Here is the text of the interview that was conducted by László Szőcs, a reporter of Népszabadság. It will soon appear in Hungarian translation.

* * * 

1. You are referred to in Paul Krugman’s NYT Op-Ed piece, which made you famous here in Hungary, as someone who “has been following the Hungarian situation closely.” In what capacity have you been doing so?

My academic specialty is international constitutional law. And for nearly 20 years now, I have studied the constitutional law of Hungary. Since the constant amendments to the Hungarian constitution started after the last election, I have been reviewing thousands of pages of legal documents to understand what is happening in Hungary for my academic research.

2. You focus on Constitutional Law in your research. At a Stanford University round table last October you were highly critical of the Orbán government and the Fidesz parliamentary majority, arguing that “they fundamentally changed the ground rules of the political order.” What do you mean by that and why do you believe that such a step – or, a long series of steps – is dangerous to democracy?

Writing a new constitution is a fundamental change of the ground rules of a political order. In a democracy, this should not be done with the votes of only one political faction, no matter how large. A new constitution should be written only with a broad consensus.

The first danger signal in the Hungarian process came when the new government changed the provision of the old constitution that required a four-fifths parliamentary vote on the rules of a new constitution-making process. The government used its two-thirds majority to amend the constitution so that it needed only its own two-thirds majority to determine both the procedure and the content of a brand new constitution.

From there, the government began disabling the independent voices that could interfere with its plan to rewrite the constitution. The new media laws threatened the independence of journalists by subjecting them to the unclear standard of political “balance.” This standard is monitored by a media board that is itself not balanced, as it contains only nominees of the governing party. Changes both in the manner of appointing constitutional judges and in the Constitutional Court’s jurisdiction meant that it is nearly impossible for the Court to play its important role of keeping the government within the boundaries of the constitution. The extensive use of private members’ bills in the parliament not only for ordinary legislation but even for constitutional amendments has made it difficult for the public as well as for the parliamentary opposition to see what the government is doing because private members bills allow the government to bypass normal parliamentary procedure and enact laws more quickly. A constitutional democracy requires a robust press, constitutional checks on the exercise of power and transparent processes for enacting laws. Hungary no longer has a well-informed and robust constitutional democracy, even if it maintains the outward appearances of democracy.

3. “Checks and balances” – or the lack of them – are often mentioned when discussing Hungary’s recent developments. Back in June Secretary Clinton urged the Hungarians to be vigilant in preserving their democratic institutions by providing the necessary checks and balances such as an independent judiciary, a free press and governmental transparency. But one can ask the question whether it would be rational for power (any power, for that matter) to show self-restraint? Why should they do so?

One can certainly understand why a political party that has won a supermajority wants to use all of the power that it has. But while it is technically legal for the government to do what it has done, their extreme use of the two-thirds power has violated the spirit as well as written provisions of the Hungarian constitution that has been in place for the last two decades.

Self-limiting power has been one of the important constitutional and democratic principles of Hungarian constitutional law since the beginning of the Hungarian transition in 1989. The Round Table itself involved a broad agreement across the Hungarian political spectrum to the comprehensive constitutional changes in 1989. The “Paktum” (Pact) between the major electoral victor and the major opposition party in 1990 produced another set of constitutional modifications through a multi-party agreement. The first time Hungary got a two-thirds government in 1994, the government limited its own power by adding the four-fifths rule to the constitution so that changing the constitution was out of its own reach. This earlier two-thirds government then started a constitutional-drafting process with the rule that five of the six parliamentary parties at the time had to agree on any individual change before it could be added to the constitution. For a government to come into power now with a two-thirds majority and then to change everything with no participation from the opposition parties is a serious change of an important Hungarian constitutional principle.

4. US Ambassador to Budapest Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis argues (in her otherwise critical op-ed) in Heti Válasz (http://hungary.usembassy.gov/kounalakis12082011.html) that “Hungary is a democracy, and it is ultimately up to the Hungarian people to decide the direction of their country.” With more heated rhetoric on the other hand, Professor Charles Gati opines in the NYT that “with no checks and balances left in the new basic law, Hungary is no longer a Western-style democracy. It is an illiberal or managed democracy in the sense that all important decisions are made by Orbán.” How do you comment? Are we witnessing a fundamental retreat from liberal practices?

Democracy and “checks and balances” are not the same thing. But they are constitutional principles that support each other. Democracy means that government is accountable to the people. But elections are only the beginning of a democratic government. Checks on power ensure that government remains accountable. As James Madison, a key author of the American constitution, said, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” When government refuses to share power or to have its own exercise of power checked by independent bodies, it is a sign of serious trouble.

Perhaps most disturbing is the current government’s assault on judicial independence. The new law on the judiciary, combined with the strategic lowering of the retirement age for judges, means that virtually all of the court presidents in the country can be replaced in a single move. The structure of the new National Judicial Office allows one person – the head of that body, appointed by this government for a nine-year term – to select all of the judges in the country without serious participation of the rest of the judiciary or, for that matter, any other independent body. This reduction in the independence of judges has been accompanied by “packing” the Constitutional Court with judges approved only by the government over the objections of the opposition and then limiting the jurisdiction of and access to the Court so that it can no longer regularly review what the parliament is doing. Under the proposed transitional provisions to the constitution, the public prosecutor, now appointed by this government for 9 years, will be able to choose which court to take any case to, which means that he can select the most sympathetic judges for his prosecutions. In addition, the new head of the National Judicial Office will also be able to assign cases to any judge in the country.

These are huge changes in the Hungarian constitutional order and they cast serious doubt on whether Hungary is still a constitutional democracy.

5. “Most constitutions are created against predictable problems”, you told the Stanford audience. Do you believe that Hungary’s new constitution will pave the way to give Fidesz an unfair advantage to keep them in power? Do you believe that the next general elections (scheduled for 2014) will or might be compromised because of the constitutional changes?

We don’t yet know the entire legal infrastructure that will be present for the next election, so it is too early to say for certain. In particular, the cardinal law on political parties has not yet been released.

But the new rules enacted in 2010 for the Electoral Commission mean that the only people who sit on that commission are affiliated with this government. The opposition no longer has any representation in this key body. And there may be a new law on the Electoral Commission yet to come.

The new electoral districts are constructed to be highly sympathetic to the current government, so that, according to an expert study, if the 2002 and 2006 elections were held again based on these districts, Fidesz would have won elections that they lost under the old system. The new media laws and the new media board make it difficult for journalists to report on political matters without looking over their shoulders for dangers.

The proposed Transitional Amendments to the new constitution make the Socialist Party the “legal successor” to the MSzMP, which is branded a criminal organization. And then these constitutional amendments extend the statute of limitations so that cases against the communist party and its members may be reopened. Any fines that are awarded in these cases may be then charged to the Socialists, which may be an effective manner for the government to bankrupt its key opponent. In this climate, it will be challenging for Hungary to mount a free and fair election.

6. Do you agree with Krugman that “a proposed election law creates gerrymandered districts designed to make it almost impossible for other parties to form a government”? Gerrymandering is hardly an Orbán invention. Wikipedia says the term was used for the first time in 1812 in the Boston Gazette and exactly 200 years later a Boston metro area Congressman, Barney Frank will not seek reelection due to the fact that his district is being gerrymandered…

It’s true that the United States gave the name to the practice of gerrymandering. And in many governments, the winning majorities are tempted to redraw the lines of districts to keep themselves in power. That’s normal politics.

The electoral districts specified in the proposed election law in Hungary, however, are very different from normal gerrymandering for two reasons.

First, the new electoral districts are defined in precise detail, down to the last village, in the election law itself. Because the shape of each district is embedded in a cardinal law, no boundary of any of these districts can be altered without getting a two-thirds vote of the parliament to make the change. So the districts drawn by the current governing party to give itself the most obvious advantage will not be changeable by any other foreseeable government. That is not true anywhere else I know.

Second, in most constitutional democracies, there are some limits on how far a governing party can tilt the next election in its favor. Those limits are set by law and reviewable by some other independent body – an electoral commission or a court. In the United States, for example, the party that is disadvantaged by electoral boundary changes can challenge the district boundaries in court so that some neutral observer can see if the process of creating electoral districts was fair. In the Hungarian system, there is no independent body that reviews the governing party’s line-drawing. No court, no independent body and no other power can limit what the governing party says the districts are. Since the law specifies the district boundaries without giving key principles that are to be used in evaluating whether the districts are fairly drawn, there is not even a legal basis for review of the districts that have been laid out in the election law. I don’t know of any constitutional democracy where there is no independent review of the process of setting election districts.

7. What does the theory of democracy tell us about how to save the people from the people? As Tsakopoulos Kounalakis observes, “Prime Minister Orbán and his government were elected through a free and fair election with an overwhelming majority.” Also, the Fidesz candidate, the local mayor, easily won the latest by-election in an upscale Budapest district, with more votes than all of his opponents combined. If democracy is compromised indeed in Hungary, isn’t it a paradox that the demos, i. e. the people don’t resist? Rather, they assist to their eventual disenfranchisement?

Democracy is more than elections. It requires elections – but it also requires more. People must know what they are voting for. During the election campaign in 2010, Fidesz did not run on a platform that promised to change the constitution. In fact, the first time the electorate heard that the constitution might be completely replaced was after the election was over. Even now, I do not believe that most Hungarians realize what has happened. If it takes a law professor like me months of close reading to figure out how the new constitution works, after 20 years of experience analyzing Hungarian law, how can the average person without such a legal background understand?

The process of changing the whole constitutional foundation of the country took only a month from the time that the constitutional draft was proposed until it was finally voted on. This provided little opportunity for public education. The government has never clearly explained what these constitutional changes actually are. The government has never given the Hungarian public the chance to ratify these changes through a referendum. The thirty-two cardinal laws that will shape the basic structure of the most important constitutional institutions – from the constitutional court and the judiciary, to elections and parties, to the office of the president, the public prosecutor and the state audit office, local governments, the central bank and more – are being raced as we speak through the parliament without time for public debate. Often there is no public copy of the final version of the law that is being voted on before the actual vote in parliament so no one outside the parliament can even see what the law is that their representatives are enacting. One wonders whether the parliamentarians themselves really understand what they are approving because of the huge volume of legislation they are enacting each day. Changing a whole legal structure so fundamentally, so fast and with so little public input is not how a democratic system is supposed to work.

8. An “Anti-Putin” front, including extremists and liberals, protested last Saturday in downtown Moscow against alleged election fraud and the monolithic power of the Putin/Medvedev establishment. We do not have anything like that here in Hungary. In fact, an LMP MP was ridiculed for proposing a wide Anti-Fidesz front from Jobbik to MSZP. Is it appropriate to collaborate with the enemies of democracy to save democracy?

Hungary has a very difficult political landscape, where the Fidesz government is flanked on the left by the Socialists and on the right by Jobbik. These parties are not natural allies so it has been impossible for them to work together. Moreover, Jobbik is such an extreme rightist party that it was excluded from the bloc of right-wing parties in the European parliament, making it difficult for anyone to work with them. It is hard for the political opposition to be effective in countering the current government because it is not united.

That said the party that has majority support in Hungary these days is the “Undecided” party. Some new political parties might be able to mobilize discontent with the current government to oppose it effectively. But whether a new party can be created and appeal to this undecided majority depends on what the new election framework looks like by that time.

9. Even if the majority of the people remain silent, “a number of credible voices are raising questions,” as the US Ambassador observes. Intellectuals do feel responsibility to make their voices heard. However, they are often referred to in circles close to the government as either superficial or politically biased observers or both. Do you regard yourself as such?

The foreign voices raising questions about the new constitutional order of Hungary are experts who don’t have any personal connections to the polarized domestic politics in Hungary. The Venice Commission on Democracy through Law which examined the new constitution for its compliance with international principles said that the new constitution “put the principle of democracy itself . . . at risk.”   The European Parliament, in a resolution on 5 July 2011, noted that “the Constitution has been widely criticised by national, European and international NGOs and organisations, the Venice Commission and representatives of Member States’ governments, and was adopted exclusively with the votes of the MPs from the governing parties, so that no political or social consensus was achieved.”   Most of the independent experts I know who have made themselves aware of developments in Hungary are very concerned. None of us are close to the government or affiliated with the opposition parties – or even involved in Hungarian party politics at all.

10.Let’s play a public opinion survey for a minute. Which of the following statements do you agree with the most? A. “Those who raise concerns in regard to the current state of Hungarian democracy (especially from the United States) do not serve US foreign policy interests either intentionally or unintentionally.”  B. “Those who raise concerns in regard to the current state of Hungarian democracy (especially from the United States) do serve US foreign policy interests but they do so unintentionally.” C. “Those who raise concerns in regard to the current state of Hungarian democracy (especially from the United States) do serve US foreign policy interests and they do so intentionally.”    

Academic experts who raise concerns with regard to Hungarian democracy speak for no one but themselves. I am certainly not speaking for the US government. As someone who lived in Hungary for a long time, I care deeply about Hungary’s future as a constitutional democracy. And Hungary’s constitutional democracy is at risk.

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Kirsten
Guest

The interview is very good, I hope it will find a broad readership in Hungary. In particular also from the ‘undecided’.
Only the last question made me wonder what kind of answer was ‘expected’. Does it only appear so or was it really meant that those who criticise the state of democracy in Hungary serve intentionally or not the United States…? Is that not a bit of an overestimation of the role of Hungary in the world…? And yes, some foreign observers care but do those Hungarians who do not care then also serve some hidden purpose? Perhaps also the United States because if they do not care, OV will stay in power, this will make foreigners care and here we go, this serves the United States. The big question then is whether the Hungarians who do not care serve the US intentionally or not… I am sorry but this is a weird opinion survey to end the interview.

Paul
Guest

Thanks, Éva, an interesting (if depressing) read.
If only this could be made freely and widely available in Hungary. And this is one aspect of the situation she doesn’t really cover – the people of Hungary have such one-sided and restricted news these days that they simply don’t know what is happening, what is wrong, or what they can do about it.

An
Guest

So much damage in so little time…amazing. And very depressing.
The next one in the line: curtailing the independence of the national bank. http://www.portfolio.hu/en/economy/ecb_warns_hungary_to_respect_central_bank_independence.23445.html

Member

I feel very good about that many of the concerns Ms. Scheppele makes were mentioned and discussed at various times on this blog. It is fantastic to read a highly eloquent analysis of the current Hungarian situation coming from an independent and highly qualified expert. I agree with Ms. Scheppele very much.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

some1: “I agree with Ms. Scheppele very much.”
I hope you realized that Ms. Scheppele twice contributed comments to this blog. Both times on legal matters.

Pete H.
Guest

Another NYTimes piece, this one on a law that would curtail Central Bank independence.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/world/europe/hungary-moves-against-its-central-bank.html?_r=1

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “Thanks, Éva, an interesting (if depressing) read. If only this could be made freely and widely available in Hungary.”
It will appear in a slightly shortened form in Népszabadság.

Joseph Simon
Guest

Yes, FIDESZ should listen to criticism. But where can they find an example to follow? According to C. Hedges “The Corporate State of America”, American democracy is a lifeless farce, an absurd political theater. Lobbyists write the bills and they elect your Senators. Special interests control the media, so real and substantive issues are rarely raised or discussed. Perhaps Mr. Krugman and Ms. Scheppele should use their formidable talents to survey the scene in their own backyard with a critical eye. Then we could see a more balanced view.

Member
Joseph Simon: Let me understand you: – if the system in the USA is not perfect than that authorizes Orban and the Hungarian regime to use undemocratic measures and use an ad-hoc constitution. – there are no good examples in the world so we must measure everything and anything against the practices in the USA. We only use the bad examples, so Hungary will always come up on top. – None has a right to criticize the Hungarian system if Orban and you did not read the scholarly articles they have published to critiquing their own country. – If all the above will be followed Hungary’s constitution suddenly will become perfect on its own, something that the world could follow. AFter all it is Christmas, and time for miracles. p.s.: A Google search would show you many results of Ms Scheppele’s articles regarding the USA constitutional challenges. THere are dozens of critics from Mr. Krugman on the system in the USA. So there you have it. I know that is very important to you, so let us know, what do you think about them. Do not limit yourself for your assumptions Simon, but put a little effort (like search) before… Read more »
Jim
Guest

J. Simon: “Perhaps Mr. Krugman and Ms. Scheppele should use their formidable talents to survey the scene in their own backyard with a critical eye.”
They do. Krugman is ruthless in his criticism of the U.S., week after week.
(Your point is a logical fallacy anyway. )

Paul
Guest

“Perhaps Mr. Krugman and Ms. Scheppele should use their formidable talents to survey the scene in their own backyard with a critical eye. Then we could see a more balanced view.”
Perhaps they should. Perhaps they do.
But in what possible universe, even yours, would this result in a “more balanced view”?
Have you got any actual criticism of the piece itself?
Thought not. Just the usual Fidesz diversionary tactics.

Paul
Guest

Éva – I meant really widely. How many Fidesz supporters, or even those who ‘don’t know/care’ read Népszabadság?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: ‘I meant really widely. How many Fidesz supporters, or even those who ‘don’t know/care’ read Népszabadság?”
Since there is another interview with Kim Scheppele in Origo and as far as I know there will be another one in HVG.
But you will never see an interview with her in Magyar Hírlap or Magyar Nemzet. Or, even Heti Válasz. That’s life in Hungary.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

I have just received (through my ‘grape vine’) some astonishing news. It seems that someone broke into the Viktator’s office last night and stole election results not only for 2014 but also those for 2018 as well!!

Paul
Guest

Well, at least we know there will be an election in 2018!

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

My astonishing news is that the IMF-EU delegation broke off negotiations and left Budapest early morning.
My second astonishing news is that the government decided to withdrew the controversial law on churches and releigion.
My third astonishing news is that the Constitutional Court will most likely find the media law unconstitutional. What money or its lack of can do. Keep in mind the Hungarian saying “pénz beszél, kutya ugat.”

Paul
Guest

OT – just reading on politics.hu about the Fourth Republic Movement – http://www.politics.hu/20111216/new-fourth-republic-movement-presents-program/
Anyone have any views/knowledge on these people?
And while I’m doing OT links – very good article on the Contrarian blog about how news gets edited on state TV – http://thecontrarianhungarian.wordpress.com/
And a follow-up to that – there’s been some sackings at MTI over the ‘airbrushing’ farce – http://www.politics.hu/20111216/state-news-chiefs-sacked-demoted-as-scandal-over-airbrushing-of-former-top-judge-continues/
(Sorry for all the links)

An
Guest

Eva, I find it astonishing that the Constitutional Court is still actually raising its voice. Though after the way they let down those who decided to stay in the private pension system and and allowed OV to freely disregard contracts and rob Hungarians’ pension savings,they lost all respect in my eyes.
The above are good news though..at least shows that pressuring Orban works.. but you have to press him hard.
And don’t forget he only does what he absolutely needs to do under pressure,and is capable of sneaky last minute tweaks even in matters he promised to “revise”.

Guest
Interfering English democrat here! Greetings from London. Oh dear! In the Mother of Parliaments that England is alleged to be – and certainly the oldest – there is corruption; fraud; Parliamentary abuse; Independence of the Judiciary issues; Media issues – too-powerful media; human-rights issues and many of the issues highlighted in Eva’s piece. And still you don’t get it. You are shooting the messenger – Just like Orban would like you to do. And more dangerously your expectations of what a democracy is are unrealistic. I said in an earlier post that ‘Democracy is the worst of all systems; but for the rest’ – said by Winston Churchill. We have all these problems in a MATURE democracy but it’s a matter of having all the necessary checks and balances to ensure human nature and weaknesses don’t get out of hand – and at no time can someone exploit the systems too much to achieve, for example, what Orban is achieving. Of course you can see things at the wrong level and say “Mind your own business…America..Canada and dare I say Great Britain” – you are focussing on the wrong points. One of the problems is ennui in Hungary – the… Read more »
Member

An: “Though after the way [the Constitutional Court] let down those who decided to stay in the private pension system and and allowed OV to freely disregard contracts and rob Hungarians’ pension savings,they lost all respect in my eyes.”
It is not over yet. It is getting worst. According to MTI:
“Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday morning that private pension fund contributions will from now on be transferred to the state pension fund.
Speaking on a radio programme, Mr Orban said private pension fund contributions will now always be transferred to the state pension fund. He said this was not a one-off decision and that the 10% contributions paid by the approximately 100,000 people who stayed in the private pension funds will always go to the state pension fund and “this will now stay like this”.”
Also he said that people can contribute to private savings but only after they paid into their mandatory savings to government coffers.
Oh, and by the way, it was not the government that took away those private savings, it was the decision of the people to put their money into the government savings, according the Government.
http://tinyurl.com/cfdl874
http://tinyurl.com/7thpvjg

An
Guest

@Some1: I know. A slap in the face for those 100,000 who signed to stay with the private pension funds. Mind you, the funds won’t survive without incoming payments, as they will loose money on the operating costs. So practically this is a death sentence for the private pension funds.
OV just created a 100,000 strong very angry crowd.

Joseph Simon
Guest

Your comments are well taken. Look, OV is a politician. As Joe Biden says, ‘don’t compare me to God’, so let’s not compare OV to an academic ideal, however well meaning. Politics in Hungary is just as corrupt as in the US, but more visible. That is my point. We should avoid this sanctimonious tone used here so often.

Gábor
Guest

Éva, My third astonishing news is that the Constitutional Court will most likely find the media law unconstitutional. What money or its lack of can do. Keep in mind the Hungarian saying “pénz beszél, kutya ugat.”
Is it from a public source or private? Actually, websites origo, Index, HVG alleged that the law on religion and churches will be declared unconstitutional, that’s why the whole confusion in Parliament has started today.

An
Guest

Joseph Simon: The point is, that although no democracy is perfect, what OV is doing with democracy in Hungary is unheard of in the civilized part of the world, including the US.

Paul
Guest

Since when has it been “sanctimonious” for those who support democracy to criticise someone who is destroying democracy?
And, while I’m at it –
http://szarvas.tumblr.com/post/14306342295

Guest

Eva – Have I missed the point?
The IMF were due to leave today anyway after completing their ‘scoping’ meeting.
Did they leave earlier than expected despite this?

An
Guest

@CharlieH: Yes, they did leave earlier; they unexpectedly left today early morning
“The European Union and the International Monetary Fund broke off preliminary talks Friday with Hungary on a financial aid package because of concerns that the government aimed to curtail the independence of the country’s central bank.”
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i1BOrZKMgD9C5jKIU2dW8aO17YMQ?docId=2f630caf6f50411794bbec3263f46df7

márton
Guest
As far as the law on religion and churches is concerned there is no cause for celebration. From what I can see on Index, the bill has been revoked on purely technical grounds, because the procedure through which it was passed couldn’t pass muster with the Constitutional Court (the reason being that, contrary to house rules, substantive amendments were made immediately before the vote, without allowing time for prior discussion). János Lázár has already stated that another version of the law is going to be proposed soon which will be identical in substance with the version just revoked. So this is just a pseudo-concession made to preserve the flimsiest semblance of rule of law, at a time when the rule of law is being trampled upon in much more fundamental ways. This trick creates the misleading impression that the Constitutional Court still has the authority and the guts to oppose the governing party. That this is no longer the case should be plainly obvious from the fact that the Constitutional Court simply ignores the complaint concerning the forced nationalization of private pension funds, while finding the time to discuss far less consequential matters, and the complaint is in fact due… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Gábor: “Is it from a public source or private? ”
I read it in HVG about two hours ago. Since then I haven’t been at home and therefore I don’t know whether anything new happened or not. I have lunch and then I will start combing the news.

Member

marton: ” yesterday [Fidesz] proposed an amendment to the house rules according to which it will be possible to make substantive amendments to a proposed bill immediately before the vote. ”
Is that true? Does anyone have a link? This is just the icing on the cake. So actually, they can pass anything, whatever they want without any form on consultation, or without giving any chance to those who would oppose the “insert”. Technically, you can put out a new law for consultation saying that “Hungary supports the homeless by allowing them to take shelter in community halls in extreme weather”, then before the vote, Lazar can stand up and insert “from 5-6 pm”. Nice!

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