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Government Under Fire For Proposed Constitutional Amendment On Emergencies Caused By Threat Of Terror

By Ferenc Sullivan // 2016.01.14.

Both parliamentary parties and experts are divided over whether the government’s proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law to introduce special provisions  will allow for uncontrolled abuse of powers. The modification would give the cabinet powers such as the ability to re-write the budget without restrictions, shut down the country’s borders, muzzle the press, as well as vetting foreigners, calling curfews and the introduction of rationing.

According to information obtained by news website, the government would be granted powers to intervene in the operation of the state and citizens’ lives at a total of thirty points. In the event of a terror threat, the package of proposals would provide the cabinet with powers weaker than in a state of emergency but broader than situations of danger usually called in the wake of natural disasters.

Under the plans, which heavily divide opposition groups and expert professionals alike, the cabinet would be empowered with overturning the country’s budgetary framework, restricting imports, circumventing public procurement procedures and freezing the assets of individuals or organisations it considers a threat to the country’s security. The package also proposes the possible rationing of fuel and fuel in emergency situations.

Speaking to the news portal, constitutional law expert Csaba Tordai said that the suspension of fundamental rights is unnecessary even the event of a terror threat. While the expert would not oppose the fine-tuning of rigorous direction system separating public administration, the police and the military, in order to provide for more effective state action, he cautioned against granting the state competences that could give ground to “unbridled and serious abuse of state power” and pointed out that there is no definition for counter-terror measures in the legal material.

Another expert, Miklós Szánthó of the think tank Center for Fundamental Rights, is of a different opinion. Speaking to the website, he said that effectiveness and flexibility are both necessities in extraordinary situations, although controls are needed to prevent the abuse of law. Mr. Szánthó argued that the amendments have no effect on unrestrictable constitutional rights and the functioning of the Constitutional Court; however, the restriction of other fundamental rights can prove to be necessary in the case of a terror threat, as confirmed by international examples. Control over the new proposal’s provisions is provided by the government’s continuous reporting obligation and the posterior approval of the National Assembly with a two-thirds majority.

In order to pass the amendment to the Fundamental Law, the cabinet will need to win over the support of opposition MPs because its adoption requires the support of two-thirds of the full number of deputies.

photo: Balázs Mohai/MTI