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Divided Opposition: Green LMP, Left Wing DK Clash Over Election Of New Constitutional Court Judges

Tamás Székely 2016.11.23.

As we already reported yesterday, Hungary’s parliament has elected four Constitutional Court judges to fill vacant positions, and a new court chief. Besides ruling Fidesz and KDNP lawmakers, green opposition LMP also supported the candidates, which triggered rather harsh reactions from left-wing opposition. As the election of the judges requires two-thirds majority, the six green MPs have made it possible for Fidesz to elect the missing four judges to the Constitutional Court. 

Ruling Fidesz group leader Lajos Kósa said that the election had been “lawful and legitimate”. Referring to the Socialist Party’s (MSZP) criticism, Kósa said that “the Socialists seek to destabilise the country and destroy democratic institutions”. He noted that the Socialists “would not” name any candidate they could support. He added that the Socialists, Jobbik and leftist Democratic Coalition were now becoming “a group seeking to thwart any initiative”. The co-ruling KDNP (Christian Democrats) hailed the election.

Green opposition LMP’ support for the candidates, however, has been harshly criticized by the rest of the opposition, which surmises a background deal between LMP founder András Schiffer (pictured left) and the government, even suspecting that Schiffer may be rewarded with a seat on the Constitutional Court when the next vacancy occurs. László Varju (pictured right), deputy leader of the leftist DK (Democratic Coalition), said that the outcome of the vote would further increase the government’s powers and criticized LMP for its “collaboration”. “LMP has quit the opposition”, he told a press conference, and symbolically offered Fidesz memberships to LMP co-leaders Bernadett Szél and Ákos Hadházy, who had turned up for the event. The governing side was two votes short of the two thirds majority required.

In reply to DK’s remarks, former LMP chief András Schiffer reminds his left-wing critics of the innumerable files they have submitted to the Constitutional Court over the past five years, many of which have been judged positively by the court. In such cases, he writes, they never refrained from declaring victory. He thus finds it hypocritical to talk about boycotting the institution as one stuffed with Fidesz cronies. Schiffer explains that his main concern is to keep the system of checks and balances alive. Among the sitting 11 court judges he discerns three who would give more elbow room to the government, while another three are partisans of keeping it under strict legal control. Of the four new judges, he continues, at least three are also champions of checks and balances. Under such conditions, he concludes, it would have been self-defeating not to agree to their nomination.

Gábor Staudt, deputy group leader of radical nationalist Jobbik party, said that his party found the candidates suitable for the post, but voiced protest that his party had been “excluded” from the nomination. He said his party had first been informed about the upcoming vote last Thursday, and called the short note “not fair”. In a statement, the party welcomed that LMP had contributed to the nomination process and regretted that the other opposition parties had “failed to put aside selfish interests” thus “jeopardising the operation of an important institution of the rule of law”.

via hungarymatters.hu and budapost.eu