The Constitutional Court has annulled the ruling of the Kúria, Hungary’s top court, according to which the government had violated the law on electoral procedure by sending a newsletter to electorates at the end of February. In the newsletter, the government wrote that they considered it irresponsible and did not support “the opposition’s stance that Hungary should send soldiers and weapons to Ukraine.” This claim has been refuted by the opposition many times. The Constitutional Court found that the term “opposition” in the newsletter did not refer to a specific political party, but defined the non-governmental position in relation to the government’s position as a generic, catch-all term.
The government sent out a newsletter at the end of February (to all those who had previously registered for Covid-19 vaccination) in response to the war between Russia and Ukraine. In the email, the government wrote, among other things, that “we are concerned about Ukraine, we stand by Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but war is not the solution. It is in our fundamental interest to keep Hungary out of the war conflict.”
The letter then went on to say that “for this reason, we consider it irresponsible and do not support the opposition’s stance that Hungary should send troops and weapons to Ukraine.”
The remark refers to some of Péter Márki-Zay’s earlier comments in an interview with Youtube channel Partizán. In this, the joint prime ministerial candidate of the opposition alliance argued that as a member of NATO, Hungary should represent the defense alliance’s position in all matters – even if NATO decides to send troops to Ukraine. But he emphasized that this is not the case for now.
Following his comments, Fidesz politicians and the Fidesz media accused the opposition politician of trying to send Hungarian soldiers to fight in Ukraine. The allegation has become the ruling Fidesz party’s main campaign message ahead of the elections. Most recently, for example, Viktor Orbán himself said that in the upcoming elections Hungarian people will have to choose between the “pro-peace right” and the “pro-war left.”
The newsletter was immediately objected to by the opposition coalition, who said that its purpose was not to inform, but to attack the opposition.
The case was first investigated by the National Election Committee (NVB), which found no violation of the law. However, the Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, later reversed the decision of the NVI and ruled that the government had indeed violated the regulations regarding elections by campaigning against the opposition in their newsletter.
In response, the government filed a constitutional complaint against the Kúria’s decision, claiming that the top court had wrongly identified the opposition in its decision with the nominating organization partaking in the elections.
The Constitutional Court (AB), the most members of which were elected by only the ruling parties’ votes, eventually annulled the decision of the Kúria and declared the ruling on the government’s information newsletter unconstitutional.
According to the AB, the Kúria did not give sufficient weight to the fact that the bulletin, which did not qualify as a campaign tool, was made under special circumstances, in an extraordinary war situation, primarily in order to inform citizens.
The Constitutional Court held that the contested newsletter, by its content, was not in itself intended to support parties or candidates running in the 2022 parliamentary elections, but served a public interest.
The Constitutional Court also found that the term ‘opposition’ in the newsletter did not refer to a specific political party or candidate organization, but defined the non-governmental position in relation to the government’s position, as a kind of catch-all term.
In the featured photo: President of the Constitutional Court, Tamás Sulyok. Photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI