László Kövér and democracy in Hungary

László Kövér has been extraordinarily talkative of late and one has the feeling that not even his own camp is always happy with his harsh, provocative words. A lot of liberal commentators don’t seem to take him seriously. “You know what Kövér is like,” they react. Only a few are coming to the conclusion that the sole “opposition” within Fidesz to Viktor Orbán’s policies comes from Kövér and his circle. And that internal opposition is from the right.

From an interview that Kövér gave to MTI I think we can safely say that he doesn’t have a clue what democracy is all about. Let’s start with what he thinks of parliamentary debates. According to the Constitution, while the Parliament is in session plenary sessions must be held every week. The 1989 Constitution stated the same thing, but that didn’t prevent the first Orbán government from changing it to “every third week.” An awful lot of criticism followed the decision because fewer sessions of parliament further limited the opportunity for the opposition to be heard. Kövér, however, seems determined to bring back the old practice,  and he doesn’t hide his hope that by doing so he would take away “some of the play things of the opposition.” Such a change naturally would entail another modification of the barely one-year-old Constitution. But as we know well enough, that would not be a problem.

According to Kövér, one reason that might warrant such a change is that as of 2014 there will be only 199 members of parliament instead of 386 and therefore their work load will be a great deal heavier. But that is not the only reason. In Kövér’s words, the so-called “discussions on the details of the bills [részletes viták]  are nothing but empty, boring, at times ad hominem cavils which interest no one [ in Hungarian “a kutyát sem érdekli”] besides the poor stenographers. Even the presiding chairman falls asleep on the dais.” On the same day Kövér expanded on the theme in an interview on Inforádió. He complained about “the time spent by the opposition voting down amendments when they ought to know full well which are the ones the government parties support.” So, why bother? In that case, indeed, one doesn’t need an opposition. Back to dictatorship!

And if Kövér doesn’t like a multi-party parliament why should he like the Constitutional Court? He doesn’t. In his opinion the Hungarian Constitutional Court simply doesn’t understand its own role. It acts as a “quasi appellate forum over parliament in such a way that the judges, unlike members of parliament and members of the government, are not responsible to anyone. The judges created the theocratic power of a divinity called ‘the invisible constitution’* over and above the sovereignty of the people.”

I don’t think that László Kövér reads this blog, although someone in his office does, but herewith a thing or two about the role of constitutional courts in Europe and the United States. I will first quote from an aid to civics teachers in American schools from grades 3 to 12. It is an easy text for youngsters and therefore should be super easy for László Kövér.

The Supreme Court has a special role to play in the United States system of government. The Constitution gives it the power to check, if necessary, the actions of the President and Congress. It can tell a President that his actions are not allowed by the Constitution. It can tell Congress that a law it passed violated the U.S. Constitution and is, therefore, no longer a law. It can also tell the government of a state that one of its laws breaks a rule in the Constitution. The Supreme Court is the final judge in all cases involving laws of Congress, and the highest law of all the Constitution.

In brief, this nasty U.S. Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the laws of the land. It’s not just those terrible Hungarian judges who try to foil the present government and parliament elected by the “people.” But if Kövér thinks that the United States goes too far and that the presidential system is radically different from the parliamentary system still in place in Hungary here is another description of the institution from Europe:

A constitutional court is a high court that deals primarily with constitutional law. Its main authority is to rule on whether or not laws that are challenged are in fact unconstitutional, i.e. whether or not they conflict with the constitutionally established rights and freedoms.

Nothing here about judges of the Constitutional Court being responsible to a higher authority, except the Constitution of the country. The Court is indeed part of those checks and balances Hillary Clinton often talked about with concern when it came to the dangerous path the Orbán government has taken in the last two and a half years. And here is the third most important dignitary of Hungary who seems to know less about how democracy works than a third grader in the United States.

As for the ad hominem attacks that Kövér is so upset about when he is the one who presides over the session like a nasty old nineteenth-century schoolmaster. Well, he himself is a frequent attack dog. He makes László Sólyom responsible for the present “constitutional bankruptcy of the country.” I assume it’s bankrupt because even the already packed Constitutional Court throws back bill after bill as being unconstitutional. And after László Sólyom, the first chief justice of the Constitutional Court and later president of the country, criticized the Orbán government, Kövér decided to accuse Sólyom of having a hurt ego. Viktor Orbán picked Pál Schmitt, who eventually had to resign in disgrace, instead of him. Not very elegant.

Yes, Sólyom is “at fault” because after all he was one of the framers of the Constitution as well as the man who had the greatest influence in shaping how the Hungarian Constitutional Court would function in the future. He is responsible for the Constitutional Court becoming “an appellate forum” of parliament and the government. What a tragic misunderstanding of the role of a constitutional court.

But that wasn’t enough. Kövér accused Sólyom of being the underling of the communists who were negotiating in the name of the MSZMP at the Ellenzéki Kerekasztal (Opposition Round Table) during the summer of 1989. According to Kövér, Sólyom and all those who supported him in his quest to set up a Constitutional Court were in fact helping the communists preserve their power. I assume Kövér thinks that it’s still a key element in the alleged communist conspiracy against the Orbán government. Soon enough something must be done about it. I’m sure that if it depended on Kövér the Court would simply disappear. There is already one Orbán appointee on the Court who thinks that it should be abolished.

A reminder that there were times when Viktor Orbán considered the rulings of the Constitutional Court the iron-clad rule of democracy. No more such performances in Parliament

A reminder that there were times when Viktor Orbán considered the decisions of the Constitutional Court the iron-clad rules of democracy. No more such performances in Parliament next year.

Otherwise, Kövér is planning to put an end to any kind of unseemly behavior in parliament. Order will be established in the next session, with 349 guards making sure of it. These guards will receive a high salary, about three times that of an ordinary policeman, and will have similar rights. If there is a serious incident they can hit, kick, and even fire weapons. 199 MPs and 349 guards! Incredible.  But if Orbán and Áder are shielded by the members of TEK (Anti-Terror Unit), it seems that Kövér must have his own guards. All 349 of them.

*It was László Sólyom who introduced the term “invisible constitution.” It basically means that the constitution must be interpreted in a flexible manner. It is the opposite of strict constructionism.

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gdfxx
Guest

I really do not understand Kover’s problem. After all it seems that every time Orban has a constitutional problem, he (with his “2/3” majority) modifies the constitution (or creates a whole new one).

Minusio
Guest

As they think they own the country – and its history – what else does anyone expect?

This will go on and on and on for years, believe me… Like a Monty Python show. Only, it’s really not funny.

Paul
Guest

OT, but the mention of Hillary Clinton reminded me.

My Fidesz supporting in-laws tell me that the reason Clinton is going is because Orbán complained to Obama about the things she said about Hungary, and he removed her to please Orbán.

You couldn’t make this up. But not only do they do exactly that, but millions of Hungarians believe it. I was told this in all seriousness as ‘proof’ of the esteem in which other countries hold Orbán.

An
Guest

@Paul: Seriously? I hope that it is not “millions of Hungarians” who believe this.

Member

Paul :
OT, but the mention of Hillary Clinton reminded me.
My Fidesz supporting in-laws tell me that the reason Clinton is going is because Orbán complained to Obama about the things she said about Hungary, and he removed her to please Orbán.

And a few week ago, as a big success of the Hungarian diplomacy, he met the Mayan prime minister. That helped Hungary a lot with the end of world issues …

For a US president a dimwit veep is perfect guarantee to avoid being shot. I guess this so called “strong man” of the Fidesz is Orban’s subtle warning for the same reason. If anything happens to the beloved and worldwide feared dear leader, Kover would uphold the law and order.

Petofi1
Guest

Kover’s tactic and direction is symbolic of the increasing pace of feudalization in Hungary.

Imagine my surprise to find Hungary on the Drudgereport about new law to bar foreigners from buying land! All this does is keep the price of land low and easily available to purchase
by the land-mafia Angyan has already described. Moreover, it prevents foreign developers to enter the market, further protecting local developers and restricting competition in the housing market. Pure Genius.

Everything Orban is doing is leading to the destruction of the country….all I need is someone to tell me is, WHY?
And, why noone seems to see this in-country….

Minusio
Guest

@ Petofi1. This is a one-man show (autocracy) of somebody who has spent eight years to plan how to get the power back and stay in power so nobody can take it back from him again. That was all he wanted.

He did a perfect job. Everything else is secondary or doesn’t come up at all.

Orbán already has alienated many groups. But will they amount to anything in terms of voter percentages when it comes to an election (if there is any)? I don’t think so.

This regime is democracy-proof. Orbán can no longer be “dethroned” democratically. It would take a popular uprising in the streets so huge that I cannot imagine that the Hungarians left in Hungary can have a credible go at it.

Petofi1
Guest

For people as sick as Orban and the people he has surrounded himself with, Power is no use having unless you use it maximally–in Hungarian terms that means how often you can put people and groups down. What the rest of the country considers as unrestrained mayhem, the power boys led by our martinet is enjoying an unending orgasmic pleasure.

Petofi1
Guest

correction: “…the power boys led by our martinet are enjoying as an unending orgasmic pleasure.”

Turkmenbasi
Guest

„Kövér accused Sólyom of being the underling of the communists who were negotiating in the name of the MSZMP at the Ellenzéki Kerekasztal (Opposition Round Table) during the summer of 1989. According to Kövér, Sólyom and all those who supported him in his quest to set up a Constitutional Court were in fact helping the communists preserve their power.”

Yes, this is a mantra which Kövér repeats regularly. And noone asks him publicly a simple question: ’Sorry, Mr Kövér, but you have been a member of Parliament’s national security committee in the last 22 years. In this capacity, you have repeatedly and vehemently opposed to the opening of communist secret service archives! Dont’t you think that by doing so you have actively helped the communists to preserve their power?!’

Paul
Guest

“This regime is democracy-proof. Orbán can no longer be “dethroned” democratically. It would take a popular uprising in the streets so huge that I cannot imagine that the Hungarians left in Hungary can have a credible go at it.”

A depressingly accurate summary.

Paul
Guest

An :
@Paul: Seriously? I hope that it is not “millions of Hungarians” who believe this.

I fear it is, An. My in-laws are university educated, modern Hungarians. If they believe it purely because they are Fidesz, there must be many more, especially out East, who swallow this sort of thing unquestioningly. Remember, they have no other sources of information except that provided by Fidesz, and most of them start from an anti-foreign/outsider viewpoint and this sort of nonsense just reinforces that viewpoint.

Member
Paul : An : @Paul: Seriously? I hope that it is not “millions of Hungarians” who believe this. I fear it is, An. My in-laws are university educated, modern Hungarians. If they believe it purely because they are Fidesz, there must be many more, especially out East, who swallow this sort of thing unquestioningly. Remember, they have no other sources of information except that provided by Fidesz, and most of them start from an anti-foreign/outsider viewpoint and this sort of nonsense just reinforces that viewpoint. THis is so depressing. I am not sure what the people, like your in-laws need to hear to convince them that the whole current government is a big sham? Honestly. WHat do they think about he education, that Orban says the opposite what anyone else in his cabinet says over and over? WHat did they think of Schmitt, and what do they think of Semjen now? By the way as it turns out, it is likely that Semjen’s PHD is not really a phd as Pazmany University did not follow it’s own procedure and the given law on how to qualify previous degrees as phd. So, Semjen actually did not write a phd, but the… Read more »
Ron
Guest

Paul :

An :
@Paul: Seriously? I hope that it is not “millions of Hungarians” who believe this.

I fear it is, An. My in-laws are university educated, modern Hungarians. If they believe it purely because they are Fidesz, there must be many more, especially out East, who swallow this sort of thing unquestioningly. Remember, they have no other sources of information except that provided by Fidesz, and most of them start from an anti-foreign/outsider viewpoint and this sort of nonsense just reinforces that viewpoint.

A British political think tank published a report on extremism and facebook. although Fidesz is not (yet) extreme, the result apply in my opinion not only to Jobbik, but also the general media climate.

http://www.academia.edu/2235337/Tackling_Online_Hate_Speech_-_Council_of_Europe_Budapest_27-28_November_2012

Further, I understand that Euronews start to operate a Budapest Office from January 1, 2013 (actually first quarter 2013).

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/184351/euronews-opens-offices-in-athens-budapest.html#axzz2FtE9n7NZ

Member

Eva S. Balogh :
About Semjén’s Ph.D. How could it be given its content and length? More like a senior essay.

This Hungarian PhD industry is like the Wizzard Of Oz:

Member

The revolutionary past of these Fidesz luminaries keeps hunting them. Here is photo of Kover:

https://www.facebook.com/MemesKut1/posts/163739017097112

“In police states the wages of policemen are higher then the teacher’s. In democracies it’s the other way around.”

Today in Hungary the average wages of a policemen – ordinary, not even Kover’s private bulldogs – is 50% higher then a teacher’s salary.

petofi
Guest
Some1 : Paul : An : @Paul: Seriously? I hope that it is not “millions of Hungarians” who believe this. I fear it is, An. My in-laws are university educated, modern Hungarians. If they believe it purely because they are Fidesz, there must be many more, especially out East, who swallow this sort of thing unquestioningly. Remember, they have no other sources of information except that provided by Fidesz, and most of them start from an anti-foreign/outsider viewpoint and this sort of nonsense just reinforces that viewpoint. THis is so depressing. I am not sure what the people, like your in-laws need to hear to convince them that the whole current government is a big sham? Honestly. WHat do they think about he education, that Orban says the opposite what anyone else in his cabinet says over and over? WHat did they think of Schmitt, and what do they think of Semjen now? By the way as it turns out, it is likely that Semjen’s PHD is not really a phd as Pazmany University did not follow it’s own procedure and the given law on how to qualify previous degrees as phd. So, Semjen actually did not write a phd,… Read more »
Member

Mutt :

Eva S. Balogh :
About Semjén’s Ph.D. How could it be given its content and length? More like a senior essay.

This Hungarian PhD industry is like the Wizzard Of Oz:

Good one. Very fitting!!!

Member

Mutt :
The revolutionary past of these Fidesz luminaries keeps hunting them. Here is photo of Kover:
https://www.facebook.com/MemesKut1/posts/163739017097112
“In police states the wages of policemen are higher then the teacher’s. In democracies it’s the other way around.”
Today in Hungary the average wages of a policemen – ordinary, not even Kover’s private bulldogs – is 50% higher then a teacher’s salary.

Well, we must admit there is one thing Kover is consistent and never changing in one respect. He is truthful to his mustache. You have to give him that.

Member

Breaking (but so surprising) news if you were wondering about Kover’s motivation to this relentless “patriotism”.

Kover’s wife, Dr. Maria Bekk (Oh, no! Another doctor!) was given the position of leading the new office of the Borough (“járás”) of Szigetszentmiklos.

Járás is an administrative unit in Hungary, below counties. We had them during the commies. Now the Fidesz is bringing it back obviously to put their cronies into well paid government positions.

By the way Kover isn’t bandying around the name of his wifie. It’s not in his parliament bio, but it’s required in his finical declaration.

Member

I meant NOT so surprising news …

Member

I wish for the new year that Zoltan Balog, as God’s right hand man will be responsible for all the good deeds for this so called professor and his family. As far as Hungary, I hope Fidesz leaves it to Hungarians to determine it faith, instead of them manipulating it for their own best interests.

gardonista
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :She changed her named to Boglárka. She knows why!

Boglárka is now one of the most popular girls names in Hungary, according to Wikipedia.

Hect
Guest

It is right, the lawyers (Kövér, Áder, Szájer, Navracsics, Orbán etc.) set up a system, which is impossible to dismantle unless there is a quasi-uprising (to which the extreme right wing aided by Fidesz would have some words to say the least).

There is no formally and strictly legal way to fire the Constitutinal Court (please use the word Fidesz-appointed Second Chamber) and rearrange the system.

It will be the most important decision of any new government to take unortordox steps in this regards, even when facing extreme and comprehesive and sophisticated opposition from all fronts.

The only solution is if major foriegn countries (Germany, US? France, UK, Austria, Poland) would support the changes and would accept that it is impossible to change the system in a formally legal way.

Minusio
Guest
@ Hect. At various times, in various places, I have described the same scenario. So I totally agree with you. However, during the last two years more than 200 000 people left Hungary (a multiple of the number that left in 1956). This year alone, Germany had 40 000 immigrants from Hungary. As soon as the emigrants have kids in foreign schools they will only come back for holidays. For all practical and political purposes they are lost to Hungary. A huge brain-drain that is still increasing. So what does it all mean? Although the demonstrations against antisemitism where impressive and uniting various parties and groups and churches (also the one that runs ATV!) for the first time, and those of the pupils and students and professors against Orbán’s medieval education plans where articulate, intelligent and (for the first time!) country-wide, election arithmetics tell you that these are only drops in a bucket. They won’t form a big enough united party to oust the Orbán regime in any election. This is why we both think this regime cannot be ousted democratically. But to make matters worse, the “critical mass” for fermenting an uprising is dwindling by the day, too. In… Read more »
Pektin
Guest

I am pretty sure that there is a thinking going on what to do. For example it may be possible ro organise a referendum on a new constitution (even if it was approved by, say, 55% in the Parliiament first, or even without a Parliem entary approval).

Obvioulsy you would be against the Fidesz appointed election boards and Áder. Also, now that the Constitutionla Court repealed parts of the laws relating to the transitory rules of the Basic Law and the court will probbaly repeal voter’s registration, the court gains legitimacy and looks as not so Fidesz-lead after all (which makes it more difficult to reorganise them).

So the situation is changing. There are many ways to go, but certainly there needs to be some dismantling, which will not be formally legal.

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