Hungarian lawmakers on Monday approved the fifth amendment to the constitution which, among other measures, puts financial market oversight under the aegis of the National Bank of Hungary and eliminates the provision allowing judicial cases to be moved from one court to another.
The law was approved with 260 for, 41 against and 35 abstentions. Lawmakers of the main opposition Socialists and the small opposition LMP voted against the amendment and radical nationalist Jobbik MPs abstained. The amendment will come into force on Oct. 1.
Justice minister Tibor Navracsics in June submitted the first version of the amendment proposal to parliament in response to the European Commission’s concerns expressed after the fourth amendment’s provisions on special taxes, transfer the court cases and political ads.
The cabinet added new elements to it, including provisions on religious communities and the National Judicial Council.
In line with the 5th constitutional amendment, the National Judicial Council oversees the central management of courts. The Constitutional Court will have 90 days instead of the current 30 days to make decisions in proceedings initiated by judges.
The provision on raising a tax to finance any fine levied against the Hungarian state due to an international court ruling was eliminated in the 5th constitutional amendment.
In line with the amendment, the head of the National Judicial Office will not have the authority to transfer cases from one court to another. This change was already approved by parliament in the law on courts and in the criminal code and civil code back in June. The government said at the time that the constitution would also be amended to this end, in line with a recommendation by the European Commission.
Also under the fifth amendment to the constitution, political campaign ads will be allowed to be broadcast not only by public media but also by commercial television and radio, free of charge. The ruling majority had approved a fourth constitutional amendment in March which stated that party ads can only be broadcast by public media during the campaign period and this provision has now been amended.
The amendment also affects the sections on churches to reflect a parliamentary decision made during the summer about the recognition of religious communities. The amendment declares that people of the same religion can establish religious communities which are independent and operate separately from the state but could also cooperate with the state for community goals. Such cooperation can be initiated by the religious community, and parliament decides whether to approve it. Once approved, the community will qualify as an established church with specific rights.
As a result of the fifth constitutional amendment, the government said it expects that debates connected to the constitution will come to a close and will also cease in the international arena. They cannot be used anymore as excuses for attacks against the country, the government said in its justification, adding that the recommendations of the Constitutional Court, the European Commission and the Venice Commission have been taken into consideration.