Candidates Free to Make Statements Based on Opinion and not Facts, says Constitutional Court
Ábrahám Vass 2019.10.09.
Despite a Fidesz candidate’s statement contradicting the facts, the Constitutional Court (AB) has rejected a Socialist complaint, considering the statement in question an opinion that is protected by the Fundamental Law, liberal HVG reported.
In connection with the refurbishment of a local school in Székesfehérvár, an MSZP candidate complained about a Fidesz candidate’s statement who said: “…last year, school renovations worth more than two billion HUF were completed in the city, which was never, ever supported by the opposition.” The Socialist nominee argued that as the opposition’s representatives have always voted in favor of the renovation, including the case of the school in question, the Fidesz candidate, questioning the factual outcome of a concrete vote, mislead the voters.
The complaint was first rejected by the regional electoral committee and later by the Győr Regional Court of Appeals as well, which argued that “the contested sentence cannot be judged by itself.” In other words, “the contested statement doesn’t effectively mean that the opposition did not support the renovation of that school.”
Recently, AB upheld this decision, arguing that “in the campaign there is a room for over-exaggerated wording of opinions on political programs and the suitability of candidates, considering that there is also considerable room for denial or dissent in this period.”
According to the five constitutional judges, the term “never, ever supported” doesn’t necessarily mean that the opposition voted with “no” at the aforementioned votes, confirming that the Győr Court’s decision that the statement was not about a specific vote, but according the Fidesz candidate “the opposition representatives were not cooperative and in his opinion this won’t change in the future.”
The ruling, however, warned that the candidates should not circulate any false information. These may be overseen by the Constitutional Court within its sphere of competence, but it couldn’t investigate ethical issues of the campaign, which is the responsibility of the candidates. “Those who disregard proper ethics shows the level and quality of the morality of a person who uses such means,” the ruling says.