Conservative critics of the Orbán regime and its “new” constitution

First and foremost I would like give a link to Professor Kim Scheppele’s latest article, “The Fog of Amendment,”  about the latest changes to the Hungarian constitution adopted less than a year ago. She who worked at the Hungarian Constitutional Court during its most heroic period, right after the change of regime in the early 1990s, is most worried about the castration of the court.

László Sólyom, former president and chief justice who was one of the authors of the constitution the Fidesz government replaced with its own, decries the death of a democratic constitution and its replacement with one in which the separation of powers is destroyed with the introduction of the so-called “fourth amendment.” Sólyom argues, correctly I believe, that the amendments, fifteen pages in length, fundamentally change the spirit of the constitution.

I would like to spend a little time on Sólyom’s arguments. I think I should mention that I considered Sólyom a disaster as a president. He didn’t even try to hide his political sympathies; he openly favored the man, Viktor Orbán, and the party that was responsible for his election. Sólyom would gladly have continued as head of state, but the new prime minister had other ideas. Sólyom was a pain in the neck as far as the socialist-liberal governments were concerned, and there was every likelihood that he would continue in the same vein and find almost every new piece of legislation unconstitutional. The members of the court naturally obliged. After all, the former chief justice knew the constitution he himself helped write. And, naturally, this was the last thing Viktor Orbán wanted. So instead came Pál Schmitt. He had no objection to anything. He most likely didn’t even read the documents. Too bad for Orbán that his faithful servant in the Sándor palota (the office of the president in the Castle District) was found to have plagiarized and had to step down.

Sólyom points out that both the constitution of 1990 and even the one that replaced it were based on the principle of a separation of powers. In that system, the constitutional court ensures the sanctity of the basic laws while the parliament represents the public will. Each is the highest organ within its own domain. By contrast, in the communist system the parliament was the single “power” over the affairs of state. “Unrestricted parliamentary powers in Hungary as well as in Central Europe have never been democratic and bring back very unpleasant memories,” writes Sólyom.

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The move to place parliament and through it the government over and above the constitutional court did not start with the adoption of these latest amendments. From the moment Viktor Orbán and Fidesz won the elections it was evident that the power of parliament was going to be enhanced at the expense of the judiciary and the constitutional court. They began to use the constitution as an instrument of political power. Between June 2010 and January 1, 2012 they changed the old constitution thirteen times, affecting twenty-six paragraphs. Between January 1 and March 11, 2013 they changed their own new constitution four times. This time they practically created a new constitution. According to Sólyom, the “Basic Laws” enacted by parliament in April 2011 could still be considered to be a democratic constitution. With these new amendments, however, Hungary has ceased to be a democracy because from now on the parliament has the last word as far as constitutionality is concerned.

We arrived at this sorry state of affairs as a result of the government’s decision to ignore the rulings of the constitutional court that found several of the so-called “temporary measures” unconstitutional. Yesterday the Fidesz faithful in parliament voted to incorporate all those unconstitutional measures into the main body of the constitution. And at the same time it forbade the constitutional court from examining the constitutionality of these provisions.

Gábor Török, not exactly a liberal commentator, pointed out that perhaps the most worrisome passage in this newly amended constitution is Article 2(3), which reads as follows:

“(3) The Speaker of the House shall sign the adopted Fundamental Law or the adopted
amendment thereof within five days and shall send it to the President of the Republic. The
President of the Republic shall sign the Fundamental Law or the amendment thereof sent to
him within five days of receipt and shall order its publication in the Official Gazette. If the
President of the Republic finds a departure from any procedural requirement laid down in the
Fundamental Law with respect to adoption of the Fundamental Law or any amendment thereof, the President of the Republic refers such departure to the Constitutional Court for a revision. Should the revision by the Constitutional Court not verify the departure from the requirements, the President of the Republic shall immediately sign the Fundamental Law or the
amendment thereof, and shall order its publication in the Official Gazette.”

From here on the government through its two-thirds majority in parliament can do anything its heart desires. There is no control over the laws they put into the constitution. Because, let’s not fool ourselves, unless Orbán is stopped ever new amendments will enable him to do whatever he wants.

This latest rape of Hungarian democracy is too much even for some so-called conservative writers. Like Bálint Ablonczy of Heti Válasz who complains that the Orbán government has lost its sense of reality. He calls the constitution a “legal lasagna” and says that “it is not the least bit consoling that there is no horse meat in it.” Ablonczy argues that “those Fidesz politicians who came up with this scandalous procedure not only cause damage to themselves but  further tear into the already unstitched fabric of our common affairs.” Ablonczy finds it incomprehensible that the Orbán government is ready ignore the danger signs coming from the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the American administration, and the German foreign ministry. “It is time to think a little bit.” Surely, the editorial board of Heti Válasz had to approve this article. Maybe they want to send a message to Viktor Orbán.

Even more outspoken criticism came from Dávid Lakner, a member of Mandiner, an online site for young conservatives. They also seem to be waking up to the fact that the ideology of the Orbán government has nothing to do with conservatism in the classical sense. This is an undemocratic, authoritarian system heading toward full fledged dictatorship.

The German conservative paper Die Welt described Orbán, after the enactment of the “new” constitution, as a man “who no longer trusts the free play of democratic forces and instead relies on unfettered power…. Orbán isn’t protecting his country. He is leading it into a dangerous rigidity. But things that are too brittle break all too easily.”

Finally, Barbara Stamm, president of the Bavarian parliament, cancelled her scheduled meeting with László Kövér. This must be a real blow because if Viktor Orbán’s regime had one steadfast supporter, it was Bavaria’s governing party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Viktor Orbán loved visiting Munich where he was always welcome. And Bavarian politicians came to Budapest to sing the praises of the Orbán government. No longer, it seems.

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NWO
Guest

The HUF risked collapse today. Europe (even the CSU) is turning its back on Orban. And now, Viktor has chosen to skip out of his own 3/15 celebrations to be suddenly at a crucial summit abroad. It is always darkest before the dawn. I am not yet optimistic, but I sense that (as he has done before) Orban at his moment of maximum power has overstepped, and the repercussions are now going to be felt. While the EU can’t it seems sanction Hu, they will sit back and watch the HUF go into a tail spin and try and isolate and humiliate Orban. It might not work in the short term, but it can one hopes help weaken his authority and his image in Hu of invincibility.

Öcsi
Guest

Money talks. I don’t like it but I was cheering the fall of the forint today. It’s collapse may be the only way to get rid of the political fringe that has taken over the Hungarian government.

On a related note, I sure hope Péter Erdő doesn’t become Pope. If he did, the right-wing, nationalist nutbars would go into overdrive with misguided patriotism–and hatred for anything not magyar.

dalton
Guest
The bloggers at Mandiner (the collective blog for the younger generation of conservative/right wing pundits) and the younger people of Heti Válasz (which is otherwise a weekly reliable mounthpiece of Fidesz) are in a special situation. Under the 2006-2010 period young kids adored Fidesz and it was cool to like Fidesz and it was cool to hate Gyurcsány the MSZP. However, these days it is not the case any more. Younger people nowadays are either Jobbik fans (yes, and especially kids from the country side) or the somewhat more well-off – even in the Buda circles – are fans of these ‘non-denominational’ oppositon groups (like those who staged the Lendvay utca demonstration or the one in front of Sándor palota yeasterday) or lmp or even Bajnai. In other words it’s certainly not cool to be associated with Fidesz. Older generation folks don’t feel that, pereferences have matured. But for ‘kids’ it does matter to be associated with cool people. So no surprise that it is the younger generation of the abovementioned journalists that feels that suddenly it’s no longer cool to go to a party and appear essentially as a representative of Mandiner or Heti Válasz (that is Fidesz). Among… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
Öcsi, I agree with you. Orbán and gang understand only that kind of reaction.

Orban doesn’t give a hoot–he’s got his multi-millions (euros not forints) already. As for his friends, they’re already cemented in either lucrative, long-term government positions; or advantages business situations where their competitors have taken flight.

What Orban likes is to fry the populace…you figure it out why.

Member

Isn’t it interesting that Hitler, Stalin and Orban had one thing in common in their childhood:
their fathers beat them a lot?

If you beat your son a lot you might create a monster.

Member

The summary of the agenda of the EU for this week can be found here: http://blogs.wsj.com/brussels/2013/03/11/the-eu-week-ahead-march-11-15/

I think Orban lost any moral ground to vote, to make decisions or even contribute to the discussions and decisions of the EU. Orban dismissed the request of the EU to delay the dealings with the Constitution, he took out full age of advertisements to attack and lie about the EU, he welcomed and encouraged people who marched against the EU, and assured them of his full support.
With its current constitution Hungary couldn’t become a member of the European Union. The Fidesz and its Troopers do not want to be members of the EU, and they very clearly advertised that over and over again. The EU should not let Orban into its headquarters, as he is a fraud, and he has no business to sit through any more meetings as a representative of a country. He should be sent back to his country to celebrate arguably the most important day in Hungarian history March 15.

A A A
Guest

Modestly adding, the orban myth has been funded by violence.
His handlers guaranteed his freedom of stupidity with a promise of backing it by force.
No police, court, uprising can touch him.
How did Milosevic tossed Yugoslavia into a grave? With Immunity from accountability,
The same recipe is at work in Hungary.
Only the blind diplomats of Europe and American can not see it.

Gardonista
Guest
dalton : Younger people nowadays are either Jobbik fans (yes, and especially kids from the country side) or the somewhat more well-off – even in the Buda circles – are fans of these ‘non-denominational’ oppositon groups (like those who staged the Lendvay utca demonstration or the one in front of Sándor palota yeasterday) or lmp or even Bajnai. In other words it’s certainly not cool to be associated with Fidesz. Older generation folks don’t feel that, pereferences have matured. I have to agree with this, though I’d put it differently. I know many people in their 20s, 30s & 40s who probably support Fidesz, but they don’t talk about it. I always assumed that the didn’t have to talk about it since 2010 since they are comfortably in control in the Parliament. But when push comes to shoves, they still don’t want to raise a finger to support their party. The only people who have actively challenged my criticism of Fidesz are older. What’s the Hungarian word, politikozni? Now that dalton mentions it, the younger Fidesz crowd doesn’t want to get pulled into political discussions. But me and my left-of-Fidesz/Jobbik friends are getting louder. Call me infected with American optimism,… Read more »
NWO
Guest

Dalton-
I don’t think i am necessarily fooling myself or naive. But I think Orban continues to crave acceptance in certain European circles, and still desperately needs EU money. For a long time, there has been within the CDU at least a distaste for Orban, but there was also a great fear that if they pushed him too hard this would only benefit Jobbik. The CSU on the other hand has been more openly friendly to FIDESZ. Now if the CSU is changing its view (and Merkel is willing to take more of a stand–a big if), then it is possible that the EU will keep the pressure on the only way it can: by finding an excuse to threaten “Hungary’s money”.

Trevor
Guest
Gardonista: I think that the silent 30-40’s Fidesz supporters will continue to support Fidesz. I know a number of these younger generation conservative econosmists HVG wrote about a couple of weeks ago. They are educated, nice, cultured, reasonable, intelligent. But they will never vote for anything like Bajnai, LMP, let alone MSZP. These guys have a world view which is completely set and in that MSZP and Bajnai are the ‘post-communists’, the baddies. Sure, they know that they can’t maintain this view openly, like they know racism is not acceptable or politically correct in certain circles, but nevertheless this is how they think. It’s exactly that when push comes to shove, they will support Fidesz – as the only real conservative/right wing party in their view. In a first past the post system, it is always two parties (coalitions) against each other (some UK districts with LibDems are the rare eexceptions). And thus the question will be, and this is Fidesz’s goal: Fidesz/Jobbik or the Communists? Fidesz knows that this is a fantastic game, because the right wingers are always surer, more disciplined. While lefties from time to time vote for right wing politicians, a right winger never votes for… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

NWO with the exception of Austrian vice-chancellor M. Spindelegger, Orbán has no real friends in the conservative parties of the EU.
Orbán who climbed a tall tree will have to choose between climbing down and staying. His peacock dance (pávatánc) is not misleading EU-politicians.
Some young Hungarian conservatives think already how to get rid of Orbán in time, so their careers do not suffer.
My guess: Before subventions are suspended the EU will probably suspend the right to vote of Hungary.

Just heard Austrian radio. Orbán wants to nationalise foreign banks.

Nick
Guest
LwiiH
Guest

Karl Pfeifer :
Just heard Austrian radio. Orbán wants to nationalise foreign banks.

He wants 50% domestic ownership.. the way things are going he’ll get it without a fight. CIB is sending in a team to restructure and reduce presence.

Member

Nick :
What does the dictator himself feel about all this?
http://www.freehungary.hu/comments/1831-the-secret-diairies-of-viktor-orban-ruler-supreme-of-the-nation-of-hungary

And who are you Nick? Sorry if I missed your posts before, but it is very rude to come here and place an advertisement for any blog before you give some intro. Your opinion should be posted here that you can support with links, but do not come here and post a link to an other “blog”. That is called spamming, it is very annoying, regardless how good or bad the content of your link is.

hhhdgt
Guest

Orbán could purchase any foriegn-owned bank if he wanted them. Almost all are for sale, but nobody wants to buy them (for obvious reasons).

As Orbán purchased Rába etc. now that he has (or could have if he wanted to) money from Matolcsy at the NBH, he could purchase any banks to get his 50% quota.

Nick
Guest

@Some1. Apologies. I did not intend to spam. Please remove my post if it offends. I just tried, and couldn’t.

Member

LwiiH :

Karl Pfeifer :
Just heard Austrian radio. Orbán wants to nationalise foreign banks.

He wants 50% domestic ownership.. the way things are going he’ll get it without a fight. CIB is sending in a team to restructure and reduce presence.

Watch how the foreign banks will start packing. Castro pulled something similar (OK maybe worst). Hungary is becoming a dead ringer for Cuba, and Orban for Castro. History repeats itself, if dictators do not get what they want, they will take it, like Castro did from July 1960 (nationalization of foreign owned oil refineries). The Fidesz troopers of course hate “communists” while they do not realize (or maybe they do realize) that their beloved leader and its party IS it.

Member

Nick :
@Some1. Apologies. I did not intend to spam. Please remove my post if it offends. I just tried, and couldn’t.
I am not the owner of the blog. It is only my opinion. Your perfectly entitled to post here as anybody else, just provide some info about your angle. That is all.

Member

ooops “I am not the owner of the blog, should be out of the quotation.

Nick
Guest

Thanks Eva!

S O S
Guest

Nick and Eva, thank you for your hard work to provide objective and true reporting on Hungary.

Our task is really to move our other Hungarian friends in the USA to freedom, and end the sick influence of the conservative exile Hungarians on the current Hungary after the collapse of the Horthy-Szalasi era almost 70 years ago.

szomszéd
Guest

“Unrestricted parliamentary powers in Hungary as well as in Central Europe have never been democratic and bring back very unpleasant memories,” writes Sólyom.

Sólyom is not right. In former Czechoslovakia – in Central Europe – there were (unlike in Hungary) functional standard parliamentary powers in the period between the WWI and WWII.

Breki
Guest

Fidesz wants to investigate officialy and analyse the young demonstrators of last week.

Fidesz’ private investigators perhaps would not be able to do it legally, but with the police (see below) they will be able to do a thorough research. Once Fidesz’ machinery starts, they tend do a thourogh job.

The aim – with old tricks the internal security used against dissenters – is eventually to break and eliminate the organisation of the these, lets face it, naive young people. They may be enthusiastic now, but may not last much once their internal structure is mapped, and anybody related to them have been checked. It does not take much to intimadate these kids. At atlatszo.hu (a kind of Hungarian wikileaks) you can read a witness statement of a young university student who was picked up by the police and was singing raight away and not requesting any legal help.

Like I said, Fidesz will use any means necessary to take control of the opposition, especially the budding new organsiations.

Fidesz presses charges against the demonstrators of last week. http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20130313-feljelenti-a-fidesz-a-szekhazfoglalokat.html

Paul
Guest

Nick :
What does the dictator himself feel about all this?
http://www.freehungary.hu/comments/1831-the-secret-diairies-of-viktor-orban-ruler-supreme-of-the-nation-of-hungary

Thanks for the link, Nick. Nice to find something new in English.

Member

II guess full amnesty only apply for football hooligans from Fidesz. Fidesz dropped all charges against those who put cars on fire, broke into the Television, etc. in 2006, even though those hooligans did cause personal injuries and propery damage. Of course Fidesz was very lenient as likely they were the ones who started the riot in that time. The 2006 rioters take preferential treatment compared to the 2013 university student protesters. I wonder who the criminal Selmeczi and corrupted Orban would like to see in their house the 2006 or 2013 crowd?
All power for the 2013 protesters. They did the right thing!

Member

@some1: “And who are you Nick? Sorry if I missed your posts before, but it is very rude to come here and place an advertisement for any blog before you give some intro. Your opinion should be posted here that you can support with links, but do not come here and post a link to an other “blog”. That is called spamming, it is very annoying, regardless how good or bad the content of your link is.”

With all due respect to all, it is not spamming to post in an unmoderated blog without introducing yourself, nor to post a (relevant) link. The only requirement, as far as I know, is to register. Moreover, what is an “introduction” among contributors most of whom (including @some1) are anonymous?

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