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Hungary’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday declared an amendment to the labour code and the law on the new administrative court system adopted by parliament on Dec. 12 last year to be lawful.

Opposition MPs had gathered a quarter of members of parliament to appeal the amendment and the legislation, which they argued were adopted amid a breach of parliament’s rules and in conflict with the constitution.

Among the lawmakers’ objections was that parliament’s speaker had not chaired the session from the speaker’s podium.

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The court said that voting conditions had not breached so-called guarantee rules and that MPs were personally responsible for meeting procedural expectations of the house, noting that opposition lawmakers had prevented the speaker from accessing the podium. The court added that, in any case, the rules do not stipulate that sessions may only be held if the speaker occupies the podium.

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According to the court, a “constitutional necessity to ensure reasonable operations of parliament” could justify “measures to save majority decision-making from suffering unreasonably large drawbacks arising from the democracy of the assembly”. The court cited a decision by the European Court of Human Rights, too, declaring that the freedom of debates in parliament is “not unrestricted” and “parliament has the right to intervene when its members disrupt the usual order of the legislative process”. The also noted that “the parliamentary speaker has the right and obligation to ensure that parliament’s dignity is not violated”.

The court admitted that under the law, parliament should have two notaries on duty at any time, “possibly” one delegated by the ruling parties and the other from the opposition, but said that parliament’s having two ruling party notaries on Dec. 12 was “not a violation of the rules but due to the pressure of circumstances”.

Addressing complaints concerning the technical procedure of voting, the court said that it is not stipulated that deputies can only cast their ballot in electronically.

The court said parliament’s session on Dec. 12 had had the required quorum and the required number of votes was cast for the motions on the agenda for that day.

The court turned down all appeals concerning the Dec. 12 parliamentary session in a unanimous vote of all 15 members.

Opposition parties to appeal to Strasbourg Court

The opposition Socialist (MSZP) and allied Párbeszéd parties said they would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against the Constitutional Court ruling.

At a press conference in front of the Constitutional Court building, Socialist MP Ildikó Bangó Borbély said that the top court “filled with Fidesz party soldiers” has ruled against Hungarian employees and in favour of the government.

Párbeszéd MP Bence Tordai accused the top court of cowardice of separating complaints about the voting procedure from objections to the content of the Dec. 12 bills and declining to discuss the latter.

The opposition nationalist Jobbik party said that “if Fidesz wants to stab a nation in the back, it can.” Péter Jakab, the party’s deputy group leader, said in a statement that the Constitutional Court’s findings raised the question of “whom the court wants to please by aiding the illegal enslavement of a nation and the elimination of democracy”.

The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) called the court’s ruling “outrageous”. Gergely Arató, DK’s deputy group leader, said in a statement that his party would continue to protest the “slave law”. Arató criticised the court, saying that “instead of a Fidesz-run Fundamental Law Court, true patriots need an independent body that safeguards the preservation of law and justice with dignity.”

On the featured photo: a demonstration against the labour code changes. Photo by Balázs Mohai/MTI

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