The new constitutional court: LMP lends a helping hand to Fidesz

After 2010 one of Fidesz’s first tasks was to “pack” the Constitutional Court. The party’s two-thirds majority allowed Viktor Orbán to add four new hand-picked judges to the eleven-member court. It was an act that transformed the court into a reliable partner of the Orbán government. It also extended the judges’ tenure to twelve years. Last year Chief Justice Péter Paczolay retired, and this year the terms of three judges will expire. So four judges needed to be appointed to bring the court back to full strength.

The problem was that Fidesz no longer has a two-thirds parliamentary majority. No longer could it single-handedly nominate its most loyal supporters. The party had to make a deal with at least one other party.

In theory, the support of Jobbik would have sufficed, but an exclusive alliance with a party considered by many to be neo-Nazi would not play well internationally. And so, however reluctantly, Fidesz invited all the opposition parties to cut a deal. The party’s suggestion was that it would nominate two judges while MSZP and Jobbik would each be entitled to nominate one.

Negotiations began in December 2015, but soon enough the talks broke down because Jobbik insisted on nominating Krisztina Morvai, Jobbik’s far-right representative in the European parliament. MSZP, after some hesitation, also withdrew from the negotiations. I don’t know how much influence the statement issued by the Károly Eötvös Institute had on the party’s decision, but it recommended the offer be rejected. Its reasoning was that all eleven judges who will remain on the court were appointed by Fidesz. Therefore any deal at this junction would only legitimize an already illegitimate body.

It was at this point that LMP showed an interest in continued negotiations. András Schiffer was still the co-chair of the party, and he didn’t agree with the Eötvös Intézet’s position. At the same time the party refused to participate in any kind of deal that would involve the other parties in the selection of the judges. Szabolcs Dull of Index thought it improbable that Fidesz would agree to LMP’s proposal. But while all the other parties condemned Schiffer’s willingness to negotiate, by January 2016 Fidesz and LMP were seriously discussing candidates for the four positions. As usual, it was the Demokratikus Koalíció that was the most vocal opponent, but Viktor Szigetvári of Együtt also protested in an open letter to András Schiffer. MSZP by mid-January decided to follow their lead.

The negotiations between Fidesz and LMP, represented by András Schiffer, continued. Between January and April Schiffer came up with 17 possible candidates for the job. Not much information about the candidates leaked out, but from the few reports I found it looks as if Schiffer negotiated hard. For example, he said he would accept a Fidesz nominee–Attila Horváth, a legal historian–only if Fidesz gave up the idea of renominating Barnabás Lenkovics. As HVG put it, the two together “would have been too much” for LMP given their strongly right-wing leanings. LMP apparently also insisted on a female candidate–Ildikó Marosi, a judge on the Kúria, Hungary’s highest court. It looked at this point as if Fidesz would swallow the bitter pill that, with the exception of Attila Horváth, all the other names came from LMP’s Schiffer. The nominees would be Marcel Szabó, Ildikó Marosi, Attila Horváth, and Balázs Schanda.

Marcel Szabó, Balázs Schanda, Ildikó Marosi, and Attila Horváth at the swearing in ceremony

Marcel Szabó, Balázs Schanda, Ildikó Marosi, and Attila Horváth at the swearing-in ceremony

But then, a few days after the publication of HVG’s report, Viktor Orbán changed his mind. The deal seemed dead for six months when, out of the blue, on November 15, Gergely Gulyás called on András Schiffer, the retired chairman of LMP, to say that his party was ready to accept the three LMP-nominated judges. The Fidesz decision was completely unexpected. Members of the parliamentary judicial committee didn’t learn about the deal until the second half of the week.

Jobbik was stunned. They had participated in only two discussions in the spring and, as far as they knew, the deal was off. Now suddenly there were four judges who were elected by secret ballot this morning. The yes votes came exclusively from Fidesz-KDNP and LMP. Altogether 136 votes, three votes over the necessary 133. LMP delivered.

It is something of a mystery why Viktor Orbán changed his mind and accepted the deal in which, at least on the surface, LMP played the dominant role. Ákos Hadházy couldn’t give a good explanation for Fidesz’s reversal on the issue. Some commentators believe that the sudden acceptance of LMP’s assistance had something to do with Fidesz’s acrimonious relations with Jobbik of late. Fidesz wanted to show Gábor Vona that it doesn’t need Jobbik; it can turn elsewhere to achieve the two-thirds majority if it wants to. Also, the government had been battered by its loss on the constitutional amendments, with Jobbik pulling its support, and an important parliamentary victory was something Viktor Orbán badly needed.

The opposition parties are up in arms. They consider the politicians of LMP collaborators in the furtherance of Orbán’s political system. Because of the absolute secrecy in which the LMP-Fidesz negotiations were conducted, we know very little about the candidates. For the time being we don’t whether Ákos Hadházy’s optimism is justified. He hopes that “perhaps this way we can stop on the road from democracy to dictatorship.” Something I very much doubt.

November 22, 2016
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webber
Guest

For a time I hoped that LMP really would be different, but it looks like LMP is just a bunch of Fidesznik puppets. That became apparent when their (now former) leader Andras Schiffer had his election offices in Fidesz headquarters in one of the by-elections.

Guest

I also had high hopes when LMP was announced but after all these years it seems that they are either just a bunch of opportunists or even worse people who just like the taste of power and don’t care about Hungary and its people at all!

So the comparison with the German Greens that I made at the beginning is nonsense – poor Hungary …

becky
Guest
Get used to this: LMP is now a conservative party. According to a research report (see link) about the ideological background of Hungarian voters, by now LMP has only right leaning voters. 68% of its voters identify as polgári (bourgeois, bürgerlish which in Hungary means centre-right, non-leftist) and 32% as conservative. Its left-leaning voters apparently long ago left LMP. Basically voters who are disillusioned with Fidesz but would never under any circumstances vote for any leftist (ie. godless, anti-Catholic) party tend to vote (show up in the polls as voting) LMP. I know of only one LMP voter and – coincidentally or not – she is a devout Catholic which by the way is a 10-15% constituency which is maybe what LMP is now targeting with supporting Balázs Schanda (who was almost certainly a direct request from the Catholic Church). Mind you if Schiffer thinks he (and not Fidesz) scored great with Marosi (wife of Ferenc Hörcher, the pro-Fidesz intellectual) and Balázs Schanda (a a very devout conservative Catholic) then he is sorely mistaken. This is a dream team for Fidesz, but fideszniks are much smarter not to show that they are ecstatic. Let Schiffer think he outsmarted Orban. Right.… Read more »
webber
Guest

Excellent!
That means LMP is taking votes from Fidesz.

becky
Guest

Yes, but it could also mean that Fidesz can now have a coalition both with Jobbik and with LMP. It will also be a dilemma for Fidesz whether to further finance LMP.

On top of that Orban may finally realize that the “egy zászló-egy tábor” (“one banner, one camp”) strategy just doesn’t work (actually it never did) and it’s still better to have a coalition with others than to not be in power at all. You can bet that LMP will never have a coalition with any of the currently leftist parties.

Just as Republicans who used to denounce Trump are now sucking up to him and may well end up working for him Jobbik and LMP which now seem critical of Fidesz will naturally work alongside Fidesz if need be – thereby further entrenching the Orban-system and allowing Orban and his cronies to keep their plundered wealth.

webber
Guest

Under Fidesz’s election system (first tried in 2014), losing votes to another party in the hope that a coalition can be made with that party is NOT a good idea. Up until (and including) the 2010 elections, the system favored coalitions. Now, it’s a winner-take-all system. If Fidesz loses votes to Jobbik and LMP, it will be a disaster for Fidesz in 2018.
They made the bed. Now they can lie in it.

Member
OT: on Lazar (Orban mouthpiece) on Pharaon affair: http://www.atv.hu/belfold/20161122-pharaon-ugy-lazaraz-atv-n-kereszul-szolt-vissza-az-amerikai-nagykovetnek Exactly the same strategy that Orban used in the case of the tax bureau scandal, when the US gave the llst of the accused to Orban confidentially, because the US diplomatic policy was not to shame the accused or the country publicly, and Orban used the fact that the US had not revealed the names of the accused as the pretext for not investigating or prosecuting. Now the transparently demagogic ploy is to ask why, if it was so important, the US had not specifically asked Hungary beforehand to apprehend this (internationally wanted) criminal (Pharaon)? It shows how confident and comfortable Orban feels in his immunity to press criticism or any external or internal attempt to make him act in accordance with law, truth, justice or decency: If he had wished, he could with impunity have replied “I didn’t have him arrested because I didn’t feel like it: So what are you going to do about it?” He will continue this insolence and arrogance as long as the Hungarian populace and/or the rest of the world lets him. (With the Trump regime in the US, Orban may now have an accomplice… Read more »
Member
Just as other aspects of the political spectrum are all over the place in Hungary, the greens here are a reactionary green party. Schiffer set them up to oppose Gyurcsány, and he has never really adapted to the change in the government. Their primary concern is still to oppose Gyurcsány, his new and former parties, and they don’t really care one way or the other about Fidesz. For the past 6 years, it can clearly be seen that Fidesz and LMP have on numerous occasions coordinated their media appearances, and LMP normally only seeks the limelight as a spoiler to the rest of the opposition parties, saying they will not cooperate with this or that. The most instructive figure of what would happen if LMP was given responsibility is that of László Sólyom. He was pre-LMP, or proto-LMP. Védegylet nominated him, Schiffer did his numbers and he was elected President. A couple of years later, Védegylet and Schiffer then founded LMP. Never has there been a more feckless, hapless, good-for-nothing president, who aggravated domestic disturbances and diplomatic incidents through stupidity, naivety and cynicism – trying to appeal to conservative voters in an attempt to get a second term. One of… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Hear, hear.
Solyom was politically a balfácán, hapless dupe.
LMP is dancing under Fidesz tunes, since they are financing LMP i suspect.

Simple.

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