Amendments to the Fundamental Law

 

The National Assembly has approved six amendments to the Fundamental Law since the adoption of the latter as Hungary’s new constitution on January 1, 2012.

First Amendment to the Fundamental Law

On June 4, 2012, National Assembly representatives from the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) governing alliance approved the First Amendment to the Fundamental Law. This amendment included the following provisions (source in Hungarian):                        

1-Elevated the Transitional Provisions into the Fundamental Law itself (see: The Fundamental Law: Transitional Provisions of the Fundamental Law).            

2-Stipulated that the pay of the president of the republic could be changed only through the adoption of a Cardinal Law requiring the approval of a two-thirds majority of the representatives in the National Assembly. Fidesz-KDNP representatives adopted this amendment in order to prevent the opposition from reducing or eliminating the retirement pay of former president Pál Schmitt, who resigned on April 2, 2012 because he was found to have plagiarized his Ph.D. dissertation.  

3-Annulled the article of in the Transitional Provisions that would have made it possible to eliminate the independent Hungarian Financial Supervisory Authority through its merger with the National Bank of Hungary. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that this possibility had been discarded in response to the European Union’s criticism of such a merger (source in Hungarian).   

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Second Amendment to the Fundamental Law

On October 29, 2012, Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives approved the Second Amendment to the Fundamental Law making preliminary registration a requirement for participation in national elections (source in Hungarian).

Constitutional Court Annulment of Voter Registration  

On December 6, 2012, President János Áder announced that he had sent the Second Amendment of the Fundamental Law making preliminary registration a requirement for participation in national elections to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the amendment was unconstitutional in several regards (source in Hungarian).    

On January 4, 2013, the Constitutional Court annulled the amendment on the grounds that it represented an unwarranted restriction on the right to vote (source in Hungarian).

Fidesz National Assembly Caucus Chairman Antal Rogán announced that in recognition of the Constitutional Court’s decision the party would not introduce prior registration as a condition for participation in the next national elections scheduled for 2014 (source in Hungarian).   

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Third Amendment to the Fundamental Law

On December 17, 2012, Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives approved the Third Amendment to the Fundamental Law stipulating that adoption or amendment of legislation pertaining to the acquisition and use of agricultural land and forests in Hungary shall be Cardinal Laws requiring the support of at least two-thirds of National Assembly representatives (source in Hungarian).  

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Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law

On March 11, 2013, Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives approved the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law. This amendment, whose nearly 6,000-word official English-language translation is over eight times longer than the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution contained in the Bill of Rights, placed the Temporary Provisions that the Constitutional Court annulled on December 13, 2012 back into the Fundamental Law (source in Hungarian). The Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law also contains the following stipulations (text of amendment in English and Hungarian):  

-Political parties participating in national and European Parliament elections may only publish campaign advertisements “by way of public media services” as determined in a Cardinal Law of the National Assembly. (The quoted passage is an Orange Files translation of the Hungarian-language version of the amendment, which states “kampányidõszakban politikai reklám – sarkalatos törvényben meghatározottak szerint – kizárólag közszolgálati médiaszolgáltatások útján, egyenlõ feltételek mellett tehetõ közzé.” The official English-language translation of this passage fails to specifically cite the exclusivity of public media, stating merely that “Cardinal Law may limit the publication of other forms of political campaign.”)     

-The right to express one’s opinion guaranteed in the Fundamental Law may not serve to violate “another person’s human dignity” or the dignity of the “Hungarian nation” or “any national, ethnic, or religious minority group.”  

-Those who receive government grants to pay their university tuition must subsequently work for an undefined period at Hungarian companies or institutions.              

Municipal councils may prohibit habitation of public spaces within their jurisdiction.  

-The Constitutional Court may review an amendment to the Fundamental Law on procedural grounds only. The Constitutional Court may not therefore review amendments to the Fundamental Law on substantive grounds.  

-The Constitutional Court may not refer in its verdicts to any decisions it made between the time of its establishment following the System Change in 1990 and the coming into force of the Fundamental Law on January 1, 2012.                     

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Fifth Amendment to the Fundamental Law  

On September 16, 2013 Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives approved the Fifth Amendment to the Fundamental Law (text of amendment in Hungarian). The amendment either rescinded or modified four provisions of the Fourth Amendment to which the European Union and the Council of Europe had expressed objection, while placing an element of the original Transitional Provisions that had been annulled in the First Amendment as a result of opposition from the European Union into the Fundamental Law (source in Hungarian).  

The Fifth Amendment annulled the following two stipulations of the Transitional Provisions that the Fourth Amendment had placed into the Fundamental Law: that authorizing the government to impose special taxes to pay financial obligations stemming from court decisions; and that making it possible for the president of the National Judicial Office to transfer legal proceedings from one court to another.  

The Fifth Amendment modified the Transitional Provision placed into the Fundamental Law via the Fourth Amendment authorizing the National Assembly to specify “recognized churches,” though stipulated that the state has the right to cooperate with autonomous Churches operating independently in accordance with organizational forms specified in a Cardinal Law of the National Assembly if the Churches request such cooperation.  

The Fifth Amendment also modified the provision of the Fourth Amendment prohibiting political parties participating in national elections from publishing campaign advertisements in the commercial media, permitting such advertising if broadcast free of charge in equal proportion among the parties as in the public media.  

The Fifth Amendment placed into the Fundamental Law the original stipulation of the Transitional Provisions subsequently annulled via the First Amendment that makes it possible for the National Assembly to adopt a Cardinal Law eliminating the Hungarian Financial Supervisory Authority through the organization’s merger with the National Bank of Hungary. Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives approved the law merging the two organizations this very same day (source in Hungarian).    

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Sixth Amendment to the Fundamental Law

On June 7, 2016, National Assembly representatives from the Fidesz-KDNP governing alliance and the radical-nationalist opposition party  Jobbik approved the Sixth Amendment to the Fundamental Law (source in Hungarian). This amendment authorizes the National Assembly to declare at the initiative of the government a “terrorism state of emergency” (terrorvészhelyzet) in the event of a terrorist attack or a “significant and direct danger of a terrorist attack” (terrortámadás jelentős és közvetlen veszélye). The amendment furnishes the government with the right to suspend existing laws and to take other “extraordinary measures” that depart from existing laws during a declared terrorism state of emergency (see text of amendment in Hungarian). The amendment stipulates that declaration of a terrorism state of emergency and possible extension of such a state of emergency require the approval of a two-thirds majority of National Assembly representatives.

The Sixth Amendment to the Fundamental Law permits the government to issue resolutions affecting state administration, law-enforcement and national-security organizations and the military for a period of up to 15 days after initiating the declaration of a terrorism state of emergency even if the National Assembly has not approved such a state of emergency.

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Proposed Seventh Amendment to the Fundamental Law

On November 8, 2016, the National Assembly rejected the proposed Seventh Amendment to the Fundamental Law, which Prime Minister Viktor Orbán submitted alone to the legislature. The proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law was designed to prevent the European Union from resettling Middle Eastern and African migrants to Hungary from other EU member states (See Hungary’s 2016 Referendum on European Union Migrant Resettlement Quotas and The Referendum That Couldn’t Fail).

The proposed amendment stated that “Foreign populations cannot be settled in Hungary. Foreign citizens, which does not include citizens of countries in the European Economic Area, can live on the territory of Hungary based on petitions judged individually by Hungarian authorities in a procedure conducted according to law framed by the National Assembly” (see text of proposed amendment in Hungarian).

All 131 National Assembly representatives from the Fidesz-KDNP governing alliance voted in favor of the proposed amendment, while all 69 opposition representatives either did not vote (66 representatives) or voted against the amendment (3 representatives). The proposed amendment thus fell two votes short of the two-thirds National Assembly majority required to approve amendments to the Fundamental Law (source in Hungarian).

Although Jobbik supported the proposed Seventh Amendment to the Fundamental Law in principle, the party’s National Assembly representatives did not participate in the vote, because the Orbán government had failed to satisfy Jobbik President Gábor Vona’s demand that the Hungarian Investment Immigration Program be eliminated. During the vote on the amendment, Jobbik National Assembly representatives displayed a sign referring to the program—which grants permanent residency in Hungary to citizens of foreign countries who purchase 300,000 euros in government “residency bonds”—reading “He [or she] Is a Traitor Who Lets Terrorists in for Money!”(source in Hungarian).

The law approving the Declaration of National Cooperation was the only other legislation that Prime Minister Orbán has submitted alone to the National Assembly since he returned to power in 2010 (source in Hungarian). Orbán did not exclude the possibility of resubmitting the proposed amendment to the National Assembly at a later date (source in Hungarian).

Last updated: November 8, 2016. 

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