There is a growing political notion among opposition parties that in the event of a change in government, Hungary’s constitution could be “annulled with the stroke of a pen,” the head of the Constitutional Court said, asking for help. Following this, other institutions have also taken a stance promising to “protect Hungary’s constitutional order.”
In 2010, Fidesz won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections, securing a two-thirds majority in parliament independently. The new Fidesz-led government began preparing a new constitution that year, which came into force in January 2012. The new constitution, officially called the Fundamental Law of Hungary, quickly became a subject of controversy.
According to its critics, it was adopted without sufficient input from the opposition and society at large, that it reflects the ideology of the ruling Fidesz party alone, and that it curtails and politicizes previously independent institutions.
Over the years these voices faded, but in recent months they have been revived during the united opposition’s primaries. Several candidates for prime minister pledged to change the constitution if necessary, even without a constitutional majority. At the same time, four prominent Hungarian lawyers recommended in their discussions that the opposition should declare the Constitution null and void by a simple majority on the first day of the establishment of a new Parliament, and by assuming the powers of the Constitutional Court.
This promise has not changed since then, with the opposition’s joint candidate for prime minister, Péter Márki-Zay, most recently saying in an interview that he wanted a short new constitution with plenty of checks and balances.
In recent days, three constitutional institutions, including the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, have made their positions on the opposition’s ideas clear.
Tamás Sulyok, the president of Hungary’s Constitutional Court, published an open letter on Tuesday, addressed to President János Áder, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and House Speaker László Kövér. In the letter, which can be found on the Constitutional Court’s website, he wrote:
“In recent months, there has been a growing number of ideas, now supported directly by political parties, to disrupt the functioning of the institution and ad absurdum to dissolve the Constitutional Court in the event of a change of government.”
According to the President of the Constitutional Court, such manifestations constitute a direct and serious affront to the rule of law and democracy, and as such, are utterly unacceptable in a democratic state governed by the rule of law.
He calls the “political attacks” on the Constitutional Court justices, elected by the National Assembly with a two thirds majority, and on the Constitutional Court’s body, which has been unfolding in recent months, unprecedented since Hungary’s democratic transition in 1989-90.
At the end of his open letter, he calls on the three public figures to ensure that the branches of power responsible for the smooth functioning of the Constitutional Court take appropriate and effective measures and provide guarantees to ensure that the Constitutional Court, the cornerstone of the democratic rule of law, is able to function in accordance with the constitutional order.
In a letter addressed to the President of the Constitutional Court on Wednesday, Zsolt András Varga, the president of Hungary’s Supreme Court, the Kúria, assured his colleague of his support in defending the constitution and the constitutional order in Hungary. As he wrote, according to the provision of the Fundamental Law, the protection of Hungary’s constitutional identity is the duty of all organs of the state. Varga stressed in his letter:
“When I was elected President of the Kúria, I took an oath before the National Assembly of Hungary that I would be loyal to Hungary and its constitution.”
On Wednesday, the Hungarian Prosecutor’s Office also released a statement in reaction to the open letter of the President of the Constitutional Court:
“The chief public prosecutor and all other prosecutors will fulfill their obligations stemming from Hungary’s constitution and other rules of law under all circumstances,” the public prosecutor’s office stated.
The prosecutor’s office added that Péter Polt, its head, and the prosecutors’ offices “will protect constitutional order, as well as the citizens’ rights and security” in cooperation with the Constitutional Court and other constitutional organizations.
In the featured photo: Zsolt András Varga, the president of Hungary’s Supreme Court, the Kúria. Photo by Noémi Bruzák/MTI