President Janos Ader has returned two recently amended laws to parliament for reconsideration, one regulating access to public-interest data, the other easing the rules for conflict of interest affecting farm chamber officials.
In a fast-track procedure on April 30, parliament approved a bill sponsored by the ruling Fidesz party to put data related to public organisations under the purview of the State Audit Office and the Government Control Office.
Fidesz said the law seeks to prevent “abuse of data requests” that hinder the operation of the data-handling organisations. Critics, however, said the law could potentially limit access to data of public interest.
Ader said he was returning it because the amendment would be difficult to implement.
Fidesz said the party group considered Ader’s opinion important and would keep it in mind when making a decision “about the future of the law.”
The opposition LMP party said Ader acted in keeping with his constitutional duties and his decision could be interpreted as a “soft veto”.
The E14-PM electoral alliance called on Fidesz and the government to stop impairing political liberties and destroying the constitutional system. Independent MP and co-leader of PM Benedek Javor added this had been the first time Ader returned a law for substantive rather than formal reasons, which means it was a “quasi veto”.
Transparency International said it was pleased that Ader had vetoed the amendment of the law on access to data of public interest.
The organisation, together with whistleblowers atlatszo.hu and K-Monitor and human rights organisation Hungarian Civil Liberties Union had earlier asked the Fidesz and co-ruling Christian Democrat group leaders to withdraw the bill with immediate effect. The amended law would gift government offices with the right to decide on what constitutes information in the public interest, they said in a letter also sent to Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics.
The other law returned by Ader was approved on April 29 and it stipulates that the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development can now also appoint a chairman or deputy from among the heads of its regional organisations since parliament recently cancelled the regulations that barred this.