Lex DK: How the Fidesz majority manipulates the law

We’ve already had several instances of Lex This and Lex That when a piece of legislation was specifically written to suit one person. The first such Lex was Lex Szapáry named for György Szapáry, the current Hungarian ambassador to Washington. The law in force at the time stated that the compulsory retirement age for diplomats was 70, but Viktor Orbán’s choice for the Washington post was seventy-two. No problem. The law was changed and Szapáry duly appointed. Or, there was a new, Fidesz-introduced rule that former members of the armed forces cannot play any political role for five years after leaving the army or the police force. But the lawmakers as usual were in too much of a hurry and didn’t realize that an important Fidesz member of parliament had left the army only three years earlier. Oops! No problem, let’s change the law. And they lowered the cut-off point to three years.

Now we have a new law dealing with parliamentary rules. The parliament functioned quite well for twenty-two years with the old rules. But Fidesz insists on changing everything they can lay their hands on. It would have been logical to make the changes at the end of the session, during the summer recess. But then, they couldn’t have prevented Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party, the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK), from forming a parliamentary caucus, called “frakció” in Hungarian.

According to some legal opinions, for example that of Vera Lánczos in an article on Galamus last November, DK was illegally prevented from forming a caucus already last October. I don’t want to go into all the legal pettifoggery that went on, but the DK members’ request for a caucus of their own was denied on the alleged difference between the meaning of two words: “kilép” and “kiválik.” Here are the English equivalents from the Hungarian-English dictionary: kilép = resign, leave, quit; kiválik = leave, separate, quit, part from. Hard to find a significant difference between the two. The upshot of the legal wrangling was that DK members couldn’t form a caucus then, but–as the house rule then in effect stated–they will be able to do so after sitting as independents for six months. The six months will be up in April. So, that’s why the rush to come up with new house rules.

Pettyfogger

Pettifogger

Then there are financial considerations. A caucus can spend 5.8 million forints on the everyday running of business; in addition it receives a fairly large subsidy based on the number of MPs. In the case of DK that would be 95 million forints this year. Next year the amount would be even larger; under the more generous new rules DK would receive 117 million forints. So, if DK is not allowed to form an official parliamentary group, it will be deprived of about 200 million forints between now and the 2014 elections.What are the advantages of being able to form such a caucus? More than we might think. Independent members don’t have the right to speak before the scheduled agenda of the day (napirend előtti felszólalás). Neither do they have the right to respond to speeches delivered before the official agenda. They have only limited access to interpellation, that is questioning members of the government on specific issues. Officially recognized caucuses have the right to one interpellation at every plenary session while the independents’ right is restricted by their number. In the current session that would mean that DK members could interpellate only three times in this current session of parliament. Membership on parliamentary committees is also limited for the independent members. According to the current parliamentary rules every parliamentary caucus must be represented on all committees. Currently there are twenty committees. Thus if DK could establish a caucus, each DK member could serve on two committees. An independent, by contrast, can serve on only one committee, and even that is not compulsory. For example, Ferenc Gyurcsány is not a member of any committee. I’m sure that is not a coincidence.

The new set of house rules, 120 pages in length, is the result of hard work that most likely began immediately after the issue of Gurcsány and the nine other MSZP parliamentarians who left the party came up. That is clear from László Kövér’s immediate reaction to the question. Within days, he announced that he was against the formation of new caucuses by members of parliament who had been originally elected as members of another party. Thus an MSZP member of parliament must sit with MSZP and vote according to MSZP dictates even if, despite the changed circumstances, his conscience dictates otherwise. The framers of the current house rules, on the other hand, emphasized the right of an MP to change affiliation because otherwise the political structure becomes solidified. It goes against democratic principles and the free will of an MP to act according to his conscience.

So, what is DK doing about it? A couple of days ago Ágnes Vadai, one of the ten DK parliamentary members, asked the Christian Democrats (KDNP) to support DK in their struggle to form a caucus. After all, argued Vadai, KDNP has a separate caucus although it didn’t enter the race as a separate party. The KDNP answer was, I think correctly, that their situation cannot be compared to DK because KDNP was on the ballot in a hyphenated form: Fidesz-KDNP. Mind you, KDNP’s support cannot even be measured by the pollsters.

This law as it affects DK is certainly retroactive and therefore unconstitutional. DK can turn to international forums, but by the time there is any resolution of the issue a new election campaign season might be in full swing. Although according to some polls DK already has enough support to have parliamentary representation, that calculation is based on the old electoral law. Under the new, more Fidesz-friendly one their fate is less secure. The electoral law will most likely be attacked by international forums as ten other cardinal laws have already been, but we cannot know how much Fidesz will see fit to change.

Everything is in flux, including the negotiations with the IMF. Meanwhile the Hungarian people are in a deep slumber. In Esztergom, an important referendum was not valid because only 35% of the population bothered to vote instead of the necessary 50%. Mind you, those who did vote supported the beleaguered independent mayor of Esztergom, Éva Tétényi.

Let me add a conversation I came across this morning. A reporter was talking to demonstrators at the March 15 gathering in support of Viktor Orbán and his government. The man who was interviewed is not educated as is clear from his grammar. The demonstrator: “We are dissatisfied too, because those who were poor is even poorer now, the rich richer. So, in our opinion this change didn’t bring anything good. This is how we feel.” The reporter: “Then are you for or against the government?” The demonstrator: “We are for the government, but we don’t agree with it.”

Now, you can laugh or cry.

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Kingfisher
Guest

To be fair, this sort of tribalism is very prevalent throughout the world. I recall leading up to the last election in the UK, a very distinguished academic, who I admire, was interviewed during which he completely rubbished how Blair and then Brown had run the country. But when asked who he would vote for, he said “I’ll always vote Labour.” Which I thought was outrageous. If a party is screwing up, then abstain if you can’t bring yourself to vote for someone else. But don’t reward them on a tribal basis. So I don’t think Hungary is unusual in this regard.

Population One
Guest

This new law boils my water, it infuriates me, it makes me so angry.
I don’t care if it’s the DK party, or if it was God himself that would transcend to earth and attempt to form a caucus.
I ask you this, what right does the Fidesz and the unholy corrupt souls of KDNP to decide who gets in and who doesn’t with a law a few weeks prior?
I motion to let this be a referendum, it is not up to Fidesz-KDNP. It is up to all the Hungarian people that can vote, let us decide, who gets to form a caucus and who doesn’t.
I will scream bloody murder if this goes through.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Population One: “I will scream bloody murder if this goes through.”
I’m afraid, you can start now 🙁

riviera1
Guest

I am really troubled by the lack of thoroughness in Hungary. In Esztergom, how much work went into getting out the vote? Did LMP, DK, or MSZP members show up? If not, why not? Esztergom is a test case for overturning Fidesz strong arm tactics at the municipal level. It was highly important yet I didn’t hear of any other party rushing to help them. What gives?
On another front, DK did well on their website to show how money is being splayed to Fidesz backers. But here’s another thing: why not give a DAILY record of how much the increased cost of borrowing government
money is costing the nation? After all, it’s Orban’s back-and-forth toying with the EU that is costing the nation.
For Hungarians, you must make a nuts-and-bolts explanation that these costs are frivolous and serve no purpose other than Orban’s own, opaque, interests.

Paul
Guest

This lot could pass a law to say black is white or the Earth is flat, and no one could stop them.
And yet, even after two years of this madness, people expect them to suddenly start behaving like rational/adult/sane people. Why?
They have absolute power and nothing like the capacity to understand how to use it – except for their own narrow-minded, selfish ends.
This is Lord of the Flies – but without the grown-ups arriving at the end.

Paul
Guest

“Although according to some polls DK already has enough support to have parliamentary representation”
Unfortunately, on its own, that is no longer enough. Fidesz pulled a fast one here when they redrew the election rules. They didn’t alter the threshold percentage required to get MPs in parliament, but they did change the rules to make it much harder to register candidates – plus you have to register them in more places before you can go on the ballot papers.
This is going to be almost impossible for the smaller parties to do, especially if they are short of money. This is why I frequently point out that there is unlikely to be any LMP MPs after 2014.
Ditto DK.

Population One
Guest

It seems the market is now beginning to ponder again about Orbans tactics. Please note this is slightly business oriented.
Orban Punished by Investors as Hungary Retreats From IMF Talks
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-26/orban-punished-by-investors-as-hungary-retreats-from-imf-talks.html
Hungarian Market Collapses After Forex Loans Debacle: Mortgages
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/03/26/bloomberg_articlesM1CO961A74E901-M1HI5.DTL

riviera1
Guest

@ What of Hungary in future years…
The country will serve as a test case of rapid
deconstruction of Democracy. Will be visited
by graduate students as a living museum for
political madness and irrationality. Students
will pay at the border, to a threadbare, ill-clothed, Lazar collecting ‘fees’ supposedly for the countries continuing battle for ‘sovereignty’.

Paul
Guest
As for MPs changing party after being elected – there’s another very interesting comparison with the UK on this subject. If this happens in the UK, the normal response of the press is to call for the MP to resign and stand again on his/her new platform. Most don’t, of course, as they know only too well what will happen. But a few have, and a very few have even been re-elected. Of course this is a lot easier in the UK because all MPs represent a geographic constituency, and it’s relatively straightforward to call a by-election in just that constituency. In Hungary, effectively all the non-Fidesz MPs were elected from the national list, so running a new election to see if individual MPs will be re-elected on their new alliances is virtually impossible (or at least very expensive). There is a lovely irony here also. In Hungary the MP is clearly elected on a party ticket, but in the UK the MP is technically elected to represent the people of his or her constituency (all the people), not to represent a party. In fact it wasn’t that long ago when the party’s name wasn’t allowed to be shown on… Read more »
Population One
Guest

@riviera1
Pending on trials, the CoE might temporarily pause/sideline/freeze Hungary. This was mentioned by the CoE on March 8th, called the Treaty of Lisbon, paragraph 7.
If that happens, market confidence will be shot, currency will be worth next to nothing, prices will through the roof, NATO agreement will be reviewed, and the list goes on.
I hope the PM takes this into account, during his unholy war planning sessions, and playing with our futures.

riviera1
Guest

@ Population One
One of the strangest reports of late was one by Peter Rona
who said that Merkel had planned ‘to remove’ Orban but
was dissuaded by the huge turnout on March 15. Rona is
highly respected–a strange person to make such a revelation.
Not much has been said of it. Anyone know further?

Member

And of course there is the law that will provide the president with luxuries for life even if he resigns. Comes very handy to Paul Schmitt, the president of Planet Hungary. This swindler stole the 95% of his dissertation and fraudulently obtained his title. The report from the committee that is in charge of deciding about the plagiarism is due soon. Watch the news.
This law really doesn’t make sense. There are many who suggest that this petty hatred can actually backfire by making the DK the “victim” of the FIDESZ. This blatant revenge really goes beyond any common sense. Why not to wait until 2014 when the new 200 member parliament will start?
“We are for the government, but we don’t agree with it.”
We were wasting so much bandwidth to find out the cultural, social interactions that lead to this “uniqueness” of the Hungarians … Seriously? This bloke is just plain STUPID.

Wondercat
Guest

“We are for the government, but we don’t agree with it” — to describe the man cited here as “stupid” seems to me extreme. Inarticulate perhaps; but really, how does his statement differ from “My country, right or wrong”, long held up as a model for patriots?
(The next line, seldom quoted, is in my memory “When wrong to be put right, when right to be kept right — but my country!” No, I haven’t Wikichecked it. Thanks to any reader who will.)
Will Cuppy wrote, I think, that “My country, right or wrong” has all the cogency of “My mother, drunk or sober”. Well, yes. Yes, indeed.

riviera1
Guest

Oh Hungary and Hungarians! If Samuel Johnson could only see you now…
“Patriotism: the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

riviera1
Guest

@ Mutt Damon: “Why not wait…”
Victor is about flaunting the Law: as the Giro has let slip..(hinted, not said): ‘he’s above the Law…as is the President to whom we owe allegiance under ALL circumstances!’.
Victor is ..’in your face’
Victor is…’my way right or wrong’
Victor Vicious is…’suffer and die you ugly bastards…Felcsut forever!’

Population One
Guest

*NEWS ALERT:
Schmitt Pal was cleared. Now is this corruption or what?
http://atv.hu/cikk/20120327_magyar_nemzet_megfelelt_a_schmitt_dolgozat
Who wants a doctorate from Hungary? I can teach you how:
ctrl-c
ctrl-v
Congratulations Dr INSERT NAME HERE.
@riviera1
I have to look into Merkel-Orban more. I think that they are using manipulation to try to make Merkel into a the bad lady, because she wont bend to Orbans demands. But I have to verify this, so take it with a pinch of salt. Almost like childish reverse psychology.

Kingfisher
Guest

Magyar Nemzet says one thing, Nepsazava and Népszabadság a third! So it is not a done deal.
I really don’t expect them to “clear” Schmitt but I think there is a distinct possibility that they will try to fudge the issue, perhaps as Magyar Nemzet is suggesting, by blaming Schmitt’s examiners for not pointing certain things out to him.
So let us be calm and cool!

Population One
Guest

Mayor of Hungarian city Esztergom, Tétényi Éva, explains that people are afraid to vote in an interview, as there are Fidesz people that attend to check who is voting.
http://atv.hu/cikk/video-20120326_tetenyi_eva

Kingfisher
Guest

Since my earlier post, I’ve stopped being calm and cool. Even HVG seems to think they will whitewash Schmitt. I didn’t expect this, I have to say because it is clearly and open and shut case. The deeper problem with this is that it makes people think that the law is what the government says it is, rather than something that even the government is subject to.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

riviera1: “why not give a DAILY record of how much the increased cost of borrowing government money is costing the nation?”
Let’s suggest it.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

riviera1: “Rona is highly respected–a strange person to make such a revelation.”
About Merkel wanting to get rid of Orbán. Róna often says steep things. He likes to call attention to himself. Some of his ideas are outright ridiculous, especially when it comes to agriculture as the breaking out point for Hungary.
He also thinks that Hungary’s underemployment can be solved by putting greater resources into agriculture. He was talking about 500,000 new jobs. This is nonsense. First of all, one doesn’t need so many people to work the fields as when they used hoes instead of tractors. Second, eight-grade education is not enough in this sector either. Third, everywhere in the world agriculture gives only a very small percentage of the GDP.
When he was participating in a round table discussion with agricultural experts it became evident that he doesn’t really know what he is talking about. It was interesting to see how he was retreating from his earlier radical position.
But he sounds very convincing and has a demeanor that reflects intelligence and knowledge. I think I wrote about Róna once or perhaps even twice.

riviera1
Guest

@ Eva: “..let’s suggest it..”
I would’ve if I had found an e-mail address for DK or some places for ‘feedback’…

Population One
Guest
riviera1
Guest

@ Eva…re Rona
Sorry to hear that assessment. I’ve never heard him say those radical things. I’m afraid I’ve been one of those taken in by ‘his demeanor’. Oh well, I still have Bokros and Bekesi.

riviera1
Guest

@ Eva “…let’s suggest it..”
My written Hungarian is grade 1 level. Would you mind doing it?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

riviera1, I will write. They are pretty good at answering.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

I understand that if (and it is a big if) Dr Pál Schmitt’s magnum opus is found to contain plagiarised material then the parliament will make a law.
This new law will rule that it was the various ‘originators of the materials’ who copied Dr Schmitt’s work using a strange method which is sanctioned by the E.U and encouraged by the IMF.
This technique is called ‘Precognition’ and its use is totally prohibited in Hungary.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

I’m afraid Magyar Nemzet’s news about Schmitt’s dissertation is correct. He plagiarized but it was the university’s fault of accepting a dissertation without footnotes and quotation marks. Outrage!

Kingfisher
Guest

Unlike most speaking heads in Hungary, Róna Péter has actually worked in the real world, in real jobs, in the private sector, and indeed always outside Hungary. So he is someone whose opinions I think are worth listening to even when some raise eyebrows.
He has his own successful quality-cheese business in a small village (employing about ten local people) so again, he is not a Budapest based theorist. I’ve heard him discuss this at length on ATV and he was making a far more subtle argument than Eva gives him credit for.

Population One
Guest

@Eva S. Balogh said, “I’m afraid Magyar Nemzet’s news about Schmitt’s dissertation is correct. He plagiarized but it was the university’s fault of accepting a dissertation without footnotes and quotation marks. Outrage!”
Fantastic, my doctorate will be on particle physics, so I shall copy paste everything I can then. My conclusion will be:
“I therefore conclude, that any time travel, present, past or future, should be credited to me based on [1].”
[1] The Internet, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, Various Sources, Year 1893 – 2265 (just to cover the future).
Ok, well, thats done, time to become the President of a country.
@Kingfisher
Do you think Lazar Janos is worth listening too? He has a paprika business in the same town that he is mayor in.

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