Hungary’s new constitution, enacted by Parliament with a two-thirds majority in April, came into force on January 1, 2012. The main points follow:
- the preamble notes that King Saint Stephen (r. 1000-1038) founded the Hungarian state and integrated it into Christian Europe 1,000 years ago, and its states Hungary’s people recognise Christianity’s role in preserving nationhood
- contains a commitment to preserve and protect the language and culture of both Hungarians and the minorities, as well as the natural and man-made assets of the Carpathian Basin
- pledges responsibility for ethnic Hungarian communities living beyond the country’s borders
- Hungarians should make use of material, intellectual and natural resources with the interests of the future generations in mind
- individual freedom can only unfold through cooperation with others, with the family and the nation acting as the main frames for co-existence
- rejects the idea that crimes committed against the Hungarian nation and its citizens during the Nazi and communist dictatorships should ever lapse
- qualifies the 1949 communist constitution, passed under totalitarian rule, as invalid
- declares that freedom in modern Hungary originated in the 1956 revolution.
- a constitutional institution is the fiscal council comprising a chairman appointed by the president for six years, the chairman of the State Audit Office and the central bank governor. The council’s approval will be necessary before lawmakers vote on the budget
- parliament must pass the budget by March 31 for a calendar year. Failure prompts its dissolution
- if the public debt exceeds 50 percent of GDP for the previous calendar year, the budget must contain measures to produce a primary surplus, and no loans can be raised which add to the public debt unless the economy is hit by a crisis and measures are required to restore balance. Parliament passed a cardinal law on enforcing the 50-percent-debt rule in 2016
- state and local government assets are constitutionally fixed as state property, and strict rules apply to any sell-offs
- the governor of the National Bank of Hungary will continue to be appointed for six years by the president
- the government and parliament must make sure the budget is balanced, transparent and sustainable.
- the new supreme law codifies the curbs on the Constitutional Court’s powers enacted in 2010: the top court has the power to overrule laws on the budget, taxes, customs and benefits only if they contravene basic rights to life, human dignity, the protection of personal data, freedom of thought and religion. These restrictions can only be lifted once the public debt drops below 50 percent of gross domestic product, a requirement separately stipulated in the new basic law
- From now on not only will the president of the republic have the right to send a draft law to the Constitutional Court for review but lawmakers submitting a bill, the government or parliament will also have this right. The court has 30 days to make a decision
- the number of court judges rises to 15 from 11 and they are to be elected by parliament for a term of 12 years instead of nine. Parliament also nominates the president of the court from among its members
- the Supreme Court’s name has changed to “Curia” and its president has been elected for nine, rather than six years. The mandatory retirement age of judges, which was 70 years under the former constitution, has been reduced to the general retirement age, which is gradually increasing from 62 to 65 years.
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
- stipulates a right to self-defence, the protection of private property and personal data
- introduces real life sentences
- defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and stipulates the protection of the foetus from conception
- declares the state shall strive to provide general social security to all its citizens.
PARLIAMENT, OMBUDSMAN, ELECTIONS
- lawmakers will have the right to question the chief public prosecutor, but his replies will not have to be approved by a majority of lawmakers in order to stand. It will be mandatory for anyone to appear before a parliamentary investigation committee, and this stipulation will be enforced by a two-thirds law
- the new constitution reduces the number of ombudsmen from four to one, namely the commissioner for fundamental rights. The new basic law states that the commissioner for fundamental rights will appoint two deputies to protect the interests of future generations and the minorities, respectively. Personal data will be protected, and the right of access to data of public interest will be enforced by an independent authority
- local elections will be held every five years, replacing four-year cycles. Parliament will be able to limit the borrowing activities of local councils to prevent deficits. A passage in the former constitution allowing local governments to turn to the Constitutional Court if they consider their rights have been infringed is absent from the new supreme law- referendum is valid if over 50 percent of all voters have cast a ballot. It is considered successful if over 50 percent of valid votes give the same answer — positive or negative — to the referendum question. Referendums cannot be held on laws governing members of parliament, local representatives or mayors, members of the European Parliament, central taxes, fees, duties, or social contributions.