The National Assembly

The Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest.

The Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest.

The parliament of Hungary is called the National Assembly (Országgyűlés). The National Assembly holds its plenary sessions and committee meetings at the Hungarian Parliament Building located in Budapest.

There are 199 National Assembly representatives. National Assembly elections are held every four years in the months of April or May (see National Assembly election system). The most recent National Assembly election was held on April 6, 2014 (see 2014 National Assembly Election).

Nine parties currently seat representatives in the National  Assembly: governing parties Fidesz with 114 representatives and the Christian Democratic People’s Party with 17 representatives; opposition parties the Hungarian Socialist Party with 29 representatives, Jobbik with 24 representatives, Politics Can Be Different with five representatives, the Democratic Coalition with four representatives, Together 2014 with two representatives and Dialogue for Hungary and the Hungarian Liberal Party with one representative each.   

Representatives from governing parties Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) and opposition parties the Hungarian Socialist Party, Jobbik and Politics Can Be Different constitute independent party caucuses in the National Assembly, while those from opposition parties the Democratic Coalition, Together 2014, Dialogue for Hungary and the Hungarian Liberal Party sit as non-caucus independents.  

Parties that ran independently in elections may form National Assembly caucuses with a minimum of three representatives. Parties that ran as part of party alliances in elections may form National Assembly caucuses with a minimum of five representatives. Parties composed of representatives who gained seats in the National Assembly as members of another party or other parties may not form caucuses (source in Hungarian).

Formation of a National Assembly caucus entails the following benefits: monthly financial support amounting to the composite monthly salary of 25 representatives plus 90 percent of the monthly salary for each representative in the case of opposition caucuses and 60 percent of the monthly salary in the case of governing caucuses; the right to take part in pre-agenda debate and participate fully in interpellation of the government; the right to delegate representatives to all National Assembly committees (source in Hungarian).

National Assembly Speaker László Kövér.

National Assembly Speaker László Kövér.

Fidesz founding member László Kövér has served as the speaker (chairman) of the National Assembly since August 2010. The speaker presides over plenary sessions of the National Assembly and represents the legislature at official ceremonies and other events.

The National Assembly has traditionally held two sessions per year: the spring session from February 1 to June 15 and the fall session from September 1 to December 15. The National Assembly frequently holds extraordinary summer and winter sessions in order to complete legislative duties that could not be finished during the regular sessions.

The National Assembly has customarily held plenary meetings on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning of each week during the legislature’s three-and-a-half-month regular sessions. National Assembly committees then meet on Wednesday and Thursday. 

The National Assembly considers two types of legislation: regular laws requiring the approval of a simple majority of representatives for approval; and Cardinal Laws (sarkalatos törvény) requiring the approval of a two-thirds majority of representatives for approval.

The National Assembly may dissolve itself by majority vote. In this case, the president (currently János Áder) must call new National Assembly elections within 90 days.

The president may also dissolve the National Assembly and call new elections under two conditions: if the National Assembly does not approve his nomination for prime minister for a period of 40 days following the resignation or dismissal of a government; if the National Assembly or the three-member Budget Council do not approve the government budget for a given year by March 31 of that year.

National Assembly Rules of Procedure

Plenary session of the National Assembly at the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest.

Plenary session of the National Assembly at the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest.

On April 16, 2012, Fidesz-KDNP Naional Assembly representatives adopted Law XXXIV of 2012 regarding the legislature’s organizational, procedural and other regulations. This law stipulated three main changes to the National Assembly’s former regulations: first, the law prohibited representatives from engaging in outside paid work, including other state jobs, most significantly that of mayor, beginning with the 2014 parliamentary cycle; second, the law raised the base pay of representatives to 750,000 forints per month (2,518 euros per month on the date on which the law was passed) from 232,000 forints per month, though eliminated supplementary pay for committee membership, also beginning with the 2014 parliamentary cycle; and third, the law established the armed Parliamentary Guard (Országgyűlési Őrség) to oversee security at the Hungarian Parliament Building (source in Hungarian). 

According to Hungarian political-research institute Policy Solutions, the increased base salary of National Assembly representatives in Hungary was still only the 20th-highest among parliamentary representatives from the 27 member states of the European Union, though was the fifth-highest when compared to average national-income (source in English) 

The Parliamentary Guard

The Parliamentary Guard.

The Parliamentary Guard.

The Parliamentary Guard was inaugurated on January 1, 2013 in order protect the speaker of the National Assembly, ensure the security of the legislature and in extreme cases enforce the body’s procedural rules. The Parliamentary Guard operates under the command of the speaker of the National Assembly, replacing the Interior Ministry-controlled Republican Guard Regiment (Köztársasági Őrezred) that the Orbán government abolished on July 1, 2012 (source in Hungarian). National Assembly Speaker László Kövér appointed former Republican Guard Regiment official Lieutenant-Colonel László Tóth to head the 350-member armed force. The Parliamentary Guard considers itself to be the successor of the House of Representatives Guard (Képviselőházi Őrség) that operated from 1913 until 1945 (source in Hungarian). Unlike the Republican Guard Regiment, the Parliamentary Guard is not responsible for the security of the president and the prime minister.

Fines for Offensive Speech

Jobbik National Assembly representative Márton Gyöngyösi.

Jobbik National Assembly representative Márton Gyöngyösi.

On December 17, 2012, Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly representatives adopted an amendment to body’s procedural regulations authorizing the legislature to fine representatives up to one-third of their monthly salaries based on the recommendation of the speaker if they utilized language or other forms of expression in the course of parliamentary debate or committee meetings that represented a “flagrant insult” to the authority of the National Assembly or to the dignity of an individual or group, particularly that of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group (source A and B in Hungarian).

Representatives adopted this amendment in response to a statement in the National Assembly from Jobbik Deputy Caucus Chairman Márton Gyöngyösi in the National Assembly on November 26, 2012 that it was time to “Determine how many people of Jewish origin there are, particularly in the Hungarian National Assembly and the Hungarian government, who represent a certain national-security risk for Hungary” (source in Hungarian). 

Since this amendment came into effect on January 1, 2013, the National Assembly has imposed 60 fines on opposition representatives—45  of them from the radical-nationalist Jobbik party—amounting to 19.4 million forints , or 65,000 euros at the average 2013 euro-forint exchange rate (see detailed list of fines below). 

The Land Law Protest

Jobbik and Politics Can Be Different representatives protest the new Land Law.

Jobbik and Politics Can Be Different representatives protest the new Land Law.

During voting on the new Fidesz-KDNP-supported Land Law on June 21, 2013, nearly all the members of the Jobbik caucus occupied the speaker’s platform and displayed a sign reading “Passage of Hungarian Land into the Hands of Foreigners: Treason!” (A magyar föld átjátszása idegeneknek: hazaárulás!) while chanting “traitors!” (hazaárulók). Meanwhile Politics Can Be Different (LMP) representatives displayed a sign reading “Land Distribution Instead of Land Robbery!” (Földrablást helyett földosztást!) while shouting criticism of the law through a megaphone (source in Hungarian).

Speaker László Kövér asserted after the incident that the Jobbik-LMP protest had been aimed at forcing him to call upon the intervention of the Parliamentary Guard in order to restore order in the session chamber, adding that “I will not do [them] that favor.” Kövér claimed that there had not been such a big disturbance inside the Hungarian Parliament Building since an opposition representative fired three wayward shots at Prime Minister István Tisza inside the session chamber in 1912 (source in Hungarian). Other commentators compared the Jobbik-LMP protest against the Land Law rather to the opposition’s destruction of benches and tables at the National Assembly session chamber in 1904 to protest Prime Minister Tisza’s violation of parliamentary procedure in the course of the so-called “handkerchief vote” in order to enact new regulations aimed at breaking filibusters (source in Hungarian).

The National Assembly subsequently fined 40 Jobbik representatives and three Politics Can Be Different representatives for their participation in the protest (see details below).

Amendments to National Assembly Rules of Procedure

Fidesz National Assembly representatives stand for the National Anthem following adoption of the Fundamental Law.

Fidesz National Assembly representatives stand for the National Anthem following adoption of the Fundamental Law.

On February 13, 2014, National Representatives from the Fidesz-KDNP party alliance approved new National Assembly procedures to come into effect at the beginning of the 2014–2018 parliamentary cycle. The amendments to Law XXXIV of 2012 stipulate the following changes (source in Hungarian):

-eliminates detailed debate (részletes vita) on proposed legislation;

-authorizes National Assembly representatives to decide how often to meet during the annual three-and-a-half-month sessions;

-prohibits representatives from displaying “visual aids” (szemléltető eszköz) during plenary sessions of the National Assembly unless the legislature’s procedural committee approves them beforehand;

-and requires National Assembly representatives to stand when the speaker enters the session chamber.

Speaker László Kövér on Government by Decree

National Assembly Speaker László Kövér made several statements in the September of 2013 suggesting that the government should assume some of the legislative duties of the National Assembly through the proclamation of decrees.

Köver said during an interview on InfoRádio on September 9, 2013 (source in Hungarian):

I would consider it normal regardless of what kind of governments there will be in the coming cycles if parliament would maintain its prerogative to frame only the most fundamental laws and would provide the government with authority for four years.

Kövér also said during the interview (source in Hungarian starting from minute 21:00):

It would be worth considering over the long-term if it wouldn’t be good to give the government a greater mandate, greater room to maneuver so that it can react to the everyday challenges and vibrations of life and to relax the obligation of the legislative branch stemming from the mistrust and suspicious attitude toward authority in the post-dictatorial period . . . . As a result of this, a practice emerged that we want to regulate everything according to law. . . .

Kövér told the newspaper Zalai Hírlap in an interview published on September 11, 2013 (source in Hungarian):

It is the duty of the legislative branch to regulate basic living conditions. The question is what constitutes “basic.” The way I see it today, the Hungarian legislative branch exceeds the optimal boundaries both in terms of the designation of legislative subject-matter as well as the detail with which certain legislation is addressed. After more than two decades of experience as a National Assembly representative I can say that it would be worth it for us to commit ourselves to having the parliament leave the government greater room to maneuver and to not want to regulate everything by law and devote more of its energies to oversight of the executive branch for which it has very little energy now, just as over the past twenty years. Therefore require the government to give account of its work more frequently, be more strict in following how it has used the authority that it received. This could only be called “government by decree” within quotation marks. 

Removal of the European Union Flag from the Session Chamber

National Assembly Speaker Kövér ordered the removal of European Union flags that Hungarian Socialist Party representatives erected alongside Hungarian flags in the National Assembly session chamber on several occasions in November 2014 (source A and B in Hungarian). After having such a flag removed on November 17, Kövér said “I understand that my socialist fellow representatives can always only bear the Hungarian national flag together with a flag of another color, either red or blue—but this is the Hungarian national parliament” (source in Hungarian). 

Fines Imposed on National Assembly Representatives for Offensive Speech and Expression

2013

"You Steal, You Cheat, You Lie!" Dialogue for Hungary representatives protest an amendment to the National Tobacco Shop Law.

“You Steal, You Cheat, You Lie!” Dialogue for Hungary representatives protest an amendment to the National Tobacco Shop Law.

-March 25: Hungarian Socialist Party representative Tibor Szanyi 131,400 forints for giving the Jobbik National Assembly caucus the finger (source in Hungarian).

-May 13: Dialogue for Hungary representatives Péter Szilágyi 185,000 forints and Gergely Karácsony 50,000 forints for displaying signs reading “You Steal, You Cheat, You Lie! (Loptok, Csaltok, Hazudtok!) in front of Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly caucus to protest an amendment to the National Tobacco Shop law (source in Hungarian).

-May 27: Dialogue for Hungary representatives Dávid Dorosz and Rebeka Szabó each 70,000 forints for placing a sign reading “National Tobacco Maffia at Work Here” (Itt Nemzeti Dohánymaffia Mükődik) in the middle of the National Assembly session chamber to protest the amendment to National Tobacco Shop law; Jobbik representative Előd Novák 50,000 forints for using the term “soc-zionist” (szocionista) in reference to Hungarian Socialist Party representatives (source in Hungarian).

-June 3: Jobbik representative Előd Novák 70,000 forints for referring to the Faith Church (Hit Gyülekezete) as a “Zionist business sect” (cionista biszniszszekta) (source in Hungarian).

Jobbik National Assembly representative Előd Novák.

Jobbik National Assembly representative Előd Novák.

-June 17: Jobbik representative Előd Novák 131,400 forints for referring to opposition ATV journalist András Bánó as a “Zionist ATV program host” (cionista ATV-s műsorvezető) during meeting of the Cultural and Press Committee and again referring to Hungarian Socialist Party representatives as “soc-zionists” (szocionisták) (source in Hungarian).

-June 26: 40 of 43 Jobbik representatives their entire monthly salary, a total of 17 million forints, for displaying a sign “Passing Hungarian Land into the Hands of Foreigners: Treason!” (A magyar föld átjátszása idegeneknek: hazaárulás!) and chanting “traitors!” (hazaárulók) toward Fidesz-KDNP representatives during voting on the Land Law on June 21 (source in Hungarian); Politics Can Be Different (LMP) representatives Ágnes Osztolykán 154,600 and Bernadett Szél and Szilvia Lengyel 131,000 each for displaying sign reading “Land Distribution Instead of Land Robbery!” (Földrablást helyett földosztást!) and shouting criticism through a megaphone during voting on the Land Law (source in Hungarian). The LMP representatives have submitted a legal challenge to the fine to the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France (source in Hungarian). 

-December 16, 2013: Dialogue for Hungary representatives Rebeka Szabó and Gábor Scheiring 181,000 forints each displaying sign reading “Whom Are You Protecting? Stop Beating Around the Bush in the NTCA [National Tax and Customs Authority] Affair!” (Kit védtek? Ne kamuzzatok tovább a NAV ügyben] (source in Hungarian); Jobbik representative Tamás Nagy-Gaudi’s 166,000 forints for telling Fidesz National Assembly representative Lénárd Borbély “Your whore mother, fuck it all!” [a kurva anyádat, bazd meg] in the corridor of the Hungarian Parliament Building during a meeting of the Human Rights, Minority, Civil and Religious Affairs Committee (source in Hungarian).

2014

Jobbik representative Tamás Nagy-Gaudi prepares to throw a European Union flag out the window of the Hungarian Parliament Building.

Jobbik representative Tamás Nagy-Gaudi prepares to throw a European Union flag out the window of the Hungarian Parliament Building.

-February 19, 2014: Speaker László Kövér recommended that the National Assembly fine Jobbik representative Tamás Nagy-Gaudi 166,000 forints and independent former Jobbik representative Balázs Lenhardt 50,000 forints for removing the European Union flags from the National Assembly session chamber and throwing them out the window onto Kossuth Square on February 13, the last plenary session of 2010–2014 parliamentary cycle. Kövér also recommended that Dialogue for Hungary representatives Dávid Dorosz, Gábor Scheiring, Rebeka Szabó and Péter Szilágyi be fined 131,410 forints and Szilágyi László 50,000 forints for floating orange balloons with signs bearing unfulfilled Fidesz promises suspended from them in the session chamber on February 13 (source in Hungary).

European Court of Human Rights Rules that Fines Violate Freedom of Expression

On September 16, 2014, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, ruled that the fines imposed on Szilágyi, Karácsony, Dorosz, Szabó, Osztolykán, Szél and Lengyel for displaying protest signs in the National Assembly in May and June of 2013 had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing the freedom of expression. The Council of Europe court—not to be confused with the EU’s European Court of Justice also located in Strasbourg—ordered the state of Hungary to pay damages of 4,250 euros each to Szilágyi, Karácsony, Dorsz and Szabó and 4,370 euros each to Osztolykán, Szél and Lengyel as well as total court costs of 10,500 euros (sources A and B in English). 

The European Court of Human Rights upheld the above verdict in May 2016 following an appeal from the state of Hungary (source in Hungarian).

Last updated: May 25, 2016.

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