POSTS BY Gábor Halmai

Much Ado About Nothing? Legal and Political Schooling for the Hungarian Government

After his infamous law against the Central European University, the EU Commission has announced a treaty infringement procedure against Hungary. That will probably be of limited help against the systemic threat to the rule of law in Viktor Orbán’s state. Politically more effective might be the pressure exerted by the European People’s Party.

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Legally sophisticated authoritarians: the Hungarian Lex CEU

Contemporary authoritarian leaders understand that in a globalized world the more brutal forms of intimidation are best replaced with more subtle forms of coercion. Therefore, they work in a more ambiguous spectrum that exists between democracy and authoritarianism, and from a distance, many of them look almost democratic. They take advantage of formalistic legal arguments against their enemies. Similarly, the new draft law of the Hungarian government also uses legal tricks to force the Central European University to cease operation in Budapest.

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The Hungarian Constitutional Court and Constitutional Identity

Ever since the 2010 parliamentary elections Hungary has set off on the journey to became an ‘illiberal’ member state of the EU, which does not comply with the shared values of rule of law and democracy, the ‘basic structure’ of Europe. The new government of Viktor Orbán from the very beginning has justified the non-compliance by referring to national sovereignty, and lately to the country’s constitutional identity guaranteed in Article 4 (2) TEU. This constitutional battle started with the invalid anti-migrant referendum, was followed by the failed constitutional amendment, and concluded in early December last year by a decision of the Constitutional Court, in which the packed body in a binding constitutional interpretation rubber-stamped the constitutional identity defense of the Orbán government.

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The Invalid Anti-Migrant Referendum in Hungary

After an unprecedented and partially illegal attempt to bring Hungarian voters in line against the EU refugee quota, the referendum launched by the government is invalid, as only around 40 percent turned out to vote. This was an own goal made by the Orbán government, which after overthrowing its predecessor as a result of a popular referendum made it more difficult to initiate a valid referendum.

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Viktor Orbán’s rampage to attract more far right voters

The latest dangerous ideas of PM Orbán and his government to reintroduce the death penalty in Hungary, to legitimate the disclosure of immigrants through the foreseeable result of a ‘national consultation’, and to legalize the segregation of Roma in public education further undermine the democratic values of Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union. This new wave of anti-rule-of-law populism is a direct consequence of the continuous decline of the governing party’s popularity.

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Illiberal Democracy and Beyond in Hungary

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán describes his country as "illiberal state", citing as role models authoritarian regimes like Putin’s Russia and dictatorial governments like China. As with citizens in any other nation-state, Hungarians certainly have the right to oppose the development of a liberal political system, if they are willing to accept certain consequences such as parting from the European Union and the wider community of liberal democracies. However, this conclusion must be reached through a democratic process, unlike the constitution making that took place in 2011, when Hungary’s leaders neglected to consult the people on their opinions about the very nature of the constitution.

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Illiberal Democracy and Beyond in Hungary

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán describes his country as "illiberal state", citing as role models authoritarian regimes like Putin’s Russia and dictatorial governments like China. As with citizens in any other nation-state, Hungarians certainly have the right to oppose the development of a liberal political system, if they are willing to accept certain consequences such as parting from the European Union and the wider community of liberal democracies. However, this conclusion must be reached through a democratic process, unlike the constitution making that took place in 2011, when Hungary’s leaders neglected to consult the people on their opinions about the very nature of the constitution.

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Ungarns Verfassungsgericht: Das Imperium schlägt zurück

Das ungarische Verfassungsgericht, so scheint es, ist trotz aller Versuche der Fidesz-Regierung, es zu schwächen, immer noch zu effektivem Widerstand in der Lage. Doch die Regierung mit ihrer Zweidrittelmehrheit im Parlament scheint entschlossen, diesen Widerstand zu brechen. Jetzt bereitet sie ein Gesetz vor, das dem Gericht verbieten soll, seine eigene Rechtsprechung der letzten 20 Jahre […]

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