April 20th, 2011

Hungary’s punditocracy weighs in on new constitution

So while we know what Hungary’s former president and the “international press” think of the new constitution that was passed on Moday, we figured it would be illuminating to look into what Hungary’s domestic punditocracy thought of the radical revamping of the country’s basic law. Consequently, we’ve assembled this list to see what the various talking, err, writing heads have to say about it.

Given that negative reactions are more likely to inspire opinions, it was expected that there would be more talk of the new constitution in left-leaning publications than right-leaning ones. What was surprising, however, was the lack of opinion on the topic expressed in right-leaning sources. Also worth noting is that many local news sites simply translated opinions that could be found in foreign media rather than providing their own.

Ákos Tóth of Népszabadság opined that the new law is “Vikor Orbán’s constitution” adding that just as when they were in opposition, the government can only destroy, not create. According to him, it enshrines into law their style of governing, making sure no one else can govern in a different way after they leave. The one sliver of hope Tóth expresses is that the constitution will unite all those opposed to it so that they will “sink” it by democratic means.

Péter Dániel, writing in 168 Óra called April 18th a “national day of mourning,” and argued that the government betrayed its people, likening it to tyranny, and called on all democrats to oppose the new constitution at every turn.

János Dési of Népszava used a sporting metaphor to describe Fidesz as a bunch of brutes who have now ensured that they can effectively block anything in the future after they fall out of power, closing that April 18th will become known as a dark day in Hungarian history.

Miklós Ujvári of Világgazdaság led off his piece by declaring that Hungary has remained a democracy, but that it won’t be easier to live here, in part since the limits on authority are no longer as clear as they once were. Újvári also added his concerns that too many areas of the law will now need a two-thirds majority to change, adding that a constitution that relies too strongly on a clear-headed government and does not make laws specific enough does not fulfill its function.

Attila Antal of HVG commented that the constitution would best be evaluated once it is in effect, but added that by trying to create a new constitution that went beyond just laying out the laws (such as the 1989 constitution) Fidesz probably overreached. He also felt that what was missing was consensus-building on the part of the government, arguing that for something like a constitution, it is much more important than for passing other laws, and that the country will be split between those who support the new constitution and those who favor the one from 1989.

Szabolcs Szerető wrote in Magyar Nemzet that the new constitution finally replaced the “temporary” constitution of 1989 that grew out of compromises with the previous regime. He argued that while this constitution was written by one parliamentary grouping, it was more democratic than the previous constitution because it was written solely by elected officials, adding that the current government even allowed the population to send in their opinions via the questionnaire mailed out not long ago.

Miklós Apáti in Magyar Hírlap praised Fidesz for passing a new constitution (calling it a missed opportunity for the Socialist-Free Democrat coalition that governed with a two-thirds majority from 1994-1998) and added that the Socialists decrying the government’s actions have only themselves to blame for Fidesz achieving a two-thirds majority via last year’s elections, continuing that Fidesz’s lack of finesse was understandable give the current economic situation.

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  • Leto

    Left-liberal political analyst Péter Tölgyessy’s opinion:
    He says the crisis of the society, which has been going on for years, has been extended to the foundations of the state by the acceptance of the new constitution.
    According to his opinion, the roles were predetermined on both sides, the opposition had to distance themselves from the constitution by all means, like they did, and Fidesz has to pass a new constitution without seriously trying to appease them because otherwise there wouldn’t be a new constitution.
    According to his evaluation, collective rights have become primary in the new constitution and liberty rights have become side issues entirely.
    He thinks popular mood can easily change, especially in Hungary, and he wouldn’t exclude early elections or another two third majority later.

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