Hungary

I - Political context

Disclaimer: in most of the cases where parliamentary debates are quoted, the Government has a two-third majority of the seats in the Parliament. In these cases there was no need of compromise between the governmental and opposition parties, not even in those cases, in which the European legislation had to be implemented by an act voted with the two-third majority of the MPs. Therefore these debates had no effect on the final decisions in most cases.

Political change     
I.1
What is the political context of the Eurozone crisis period in Hungary? Have there been changes in government, elections, referenda or other major political events during the period of 2008-present?

A political crisis started in Hungary in 2006 when Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s speech about his party (social democrat MSZP) and Government lying to the public was leaked.[1] He did not resign, however serious protest and street riots were held against him all over the country, especially in the capital city, Budapest.

The Government lost the support of the public immediately, and during the next three years the Prime Minister became marginalized in his own party, becoming unable to finish the four years term. A new prime minister, Gordon Bajnai was elected by the majority of the Parliament who formed a ‘technocrat Government’ in April 2009.

As Prime Minister, Bajnai began the consolidation of the economy of the country by introducing fiscal harshness and austerity decisions. His actions were not popular with the Hungarian voters and he was still linked to former Prime Minister Gyurcsány, who symbolized the lies of the 20 years of democratic system to the people. Bajnai did not run for office in the 2010 April elections. Conservative central right party Fidesz won 52% of votes and more than two-thirds – 263 out of 386 – of seats in the Parliament. This was called a ‘polling booth revolution’ by the newly elected Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.[2]

Fidesz was backed by a two-third majority of votes in Parliament and started to reform the whole legal system of the country[3]. From an economical aspect the most important decision from the first year of the new Government was the nationalization of private pension savings of citizens.[4]

This stabilized the economy for the year of 2011 but did not help to solve the long term problems that caused instability in the system. According to Article 24 paragraph 5 of the former Constitution, the Constitution could have been amended by a two third majority of the votes of the MPs, but a process of forming a new constitution requires the votes of four fifth of the MPs. After being elected and holding two thirds of the seats in the Parliament, the Fidesz Government amended the four fifth rule to a two thirds rule and then initiated a process for a new constitution. Leftish opposition parties opposed this decision saying that the Government amended the constitution to ignore their opinions on the necessity of a new constitution. They refused to take part in this process, therefore the new Fundamental Law was delivered exclusively by Fidesz. It was only the far right Jobbik party that took part in the Parliamentary debates on the Fundamental Act that was adopted after five weeks of debate on April 25, 2011, the first anniversary of the 2010 elections when Fidesz won.[5] This process was harshly criticized internationally[6]. The Fundamental Act of Hungary was voted by the Parliament on 25 April 2011, on the first anniversary of governing coalition Fidesz-KDNP, and went in force on 1 January 2012.

[1]http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5359546.stm

[2]http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2010/07/hungary

[3]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21792644

[4]http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0e01c370-06de-11e0-8c29-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2ScHepWYg

[5]For a detailed analisys see the Opinion on the New Constitution of Hungary by the Venice Commission, Strasbourg 20 June 2011, http://lapa.princeton.edu/hosteddocs/venice-commission-hungarian-constitution.pdf

[6]See for example: http://hungarianspectrum.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/kim-lane-scheppeles-testimony-at-the-helsinki-commission-hearing-on-hungary-full-text/ and http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/libe/pr/935/935253/935253en.pdf