“State Of Terrorist Threat”: Hungarian Government Proposes Constitutional Amendment
Tamás Székely 2016.01.13.
The Hungarian government has proposed amending the fundamental law to include a so-called “state of terrorist threat” among instances that mandate the mobilisation and, if need be, the domestic deployment of the armed forces. Fidesz deputy group leader Gergely Gulyás said after Defence Minister István Simicskó’s talks with four of the five parliamentary parties that the worsening security situation in Europe calls for instances of terrorist threats to be regulated by the basic law.
Under the amendment the government could declare a state of terrorist threat after a terrorist attack or during a period of a high threat of terrorism. In such an instance, it would be authorised to pass decrees that would suspend or deviate from certain laws while leaving the provisions of the basic law intact. These decrees would remain effective for 60 days and would expire if parliament does not renew them before the period is up. During such periods, parliament would mandate the army to assist the police in national security tasks. The motion will require a two-thirds support by deputies to clear parliament. Gulyás said he regretted that the Socialists stayed away from the talks. He said that the radical nationalist Jobbik party and green LMP supported the motion in general, but disagreed on some details of the proposal.
The radical nationalist Jobbik party said it supports amending the constitution to introduce a state of terrorist threat but will review the government’s specific proposal on the matter and comment on it within a week, deputy leader Előd Novák said, noting that his party submitted a similar amendment proposal to parliament in August, but the legislative body rejected it. Novak said Jobbik only received a copy of the proposal a few hours before the meeting with the defence minister was due to begin, which was why the party has asked for a week to look it over to make sure no part of the proposal would lead to civil rights abuses. On another subject, Novak welcomed Simicskó’s support of Jobbik’s proposal to establish a volunteer army with free basic training. He said that under the proposal the volunteers could not be deployed in foreign missions. Jobbik also requested the defence minister to withdraw the regular army from foreign missions as well and not to deploy the troops in the future either, as their participation in those missions raises the threat of terrorism in Hungary.
The Socialist Party (MSZP) said it would submit its own proposal concerning the management of terrorist threats, arguing that the government’s proposal fails to provide a sufficient level of security to the people nor does it leave enough room for parliamentary control. Party leader József Tóbiás said the government’s proposal “made it clear” that the government is only interested in gaining special powers during potential states of terrorist threat. He said his party would always support measures that strengthen national security but it would not allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to abuse his powers under the guise of counterterrorism measures.
Green opposition LMP said it would not support granting the government the power to enforce special measures — restricting various freedoms in the process — in periods of high threats of terrorism without parliament’s approval. Co-leader András Schiffer said he was aware of Europe’s security challenges and that the deployment of the army may be necessary to overcome these challenges, therefore his party is ready for further talks on amending the constitution. He said he did not understand why declaring a state of preventive defence or a state of emergency was not sufficient to manage terrorist threats. Schiffer said it was also unclear when exactly the threat of terrorism is considered high.
Meanwhile Hungarian President János Áder expressed condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the suicide bombing in a historic district of Istanbul. “I was shocked and saddened to hear the news that the peace in Turkey was once again disrupted by a terrorist attack,” Áder wrote in a letter. Áder reiterated that Hungary strongly condemns all forms of terrorism. “We will work together with our allies and do everything we can to combat the senseless and inhumane crime of terrorism.” The blast that killed at least 10 people and injured 15 in a tourist district in Istanbul on Tuesday is thought to have been carried out by a Syrian suicide bomber.