POSTS BY Gábor Halmai

From Emergency to Disaster

This week, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government put before the Hungarian Parliament two draft laws that, if passed, would end the state of emergency and create a new legal framework for handing the pandemic from here on out.  In doing so, the government was responding to those who criticized the unlimited power that the government had been given in the law creating a pandemic emergency, the Enabling Act of 30 March 2020.  That law allowed the government to override any law by decree, a power that was unlimited in both scope and time and that violated Fidesz’ own “illiberal” constitution the Fundamental Law.  

The new laws are no better, and may even be worse.   One of the draft laws is less than one page long accompanied by two pages of justification.   It purports to repeal the initial Enabling Act (about which, more below).    The other one is called the law on “transitional provisions” and at first it seems only to provide lots of technical answers to questions that arise about how to reset deadlines for various legal processes that were delayed when the economy stopped. The new laws are no better, and may even be worse.

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Orbán is Still the Sole Judge of his Own Law

Our 22 April post on the Verfassungblog about Viktor Orbán’s state of emergency generated a thoughtful reply from Dr. Dániel Karsai, a well-respected Hungarian lawyer. We appreciate the chance to respond to his criticisms, alleging that we made some factual errors about the operation of Hungarian law.

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Don’t Be Fooled by Autocrats!

On 9 April, Vera Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for values and transparency with lead responsibility for rule of law, gave an interview to Euronews on democracy in the pandemic. A journalist asked whether she believes that Hungary still qualifies as a democracy after the Enabling Act creating an indefinite state of emergency was enacted by the Hungarian Parliament on 30 March. Her answer was not reassuring.

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The Tyranny of Values or the Tyranny of One-Party States?

In his contribution ‘Fundamentals on Defending European Values,’ Armin von Bogdandy counsels caution. His arguments are wise in normal times. But we no longer live in normal times. The current governments of at least two EU Member States, Hungary and Poland, are engaged in normative freelancing with the explicit aim of making future democratic rotation impossible. The rogue governments we see today are undermining the values of the European Union when the EU is more popular in these Member States than their own governments are.

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Human Dignity for Good Hungarians Only

On 4 June 2019 the packed Constitutional Court of Hungary issued an astonishingly inhuman decision: The criminalization and eventual imprisonment of homeless people, the Court declared, is in line with the 2011 Fundamental Law of Hungary. According to the majority, “ (…) nobody has the right to poverty and homelessness, this condition is not part of the right to human dignity.”

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Fidesz and Faith: Ethno-Nationalism in Hungary

“The protection of Hungary’s self-identity and its Christian culture is the duty of all state organizations” says one of the new provisions that were adopted on 20 June to change the country’s Fundamental Law of 2011. Besides its potential to limit fundamental rights, what are the possible consequences of this constitutional change, in legal, cultural and political terms?

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The Hungarian Constitutional Court betrays Academic Freedom and Freedom of Association

On 5 June the Hungarian Constitutional Court issued two injunction decisions, almost identical in their texts, which suspend the constitutional review procedures against two laws enacted in early April, 2017 by the Hungarian Parliament, outside the normal legislative process. The first, an amendment to the Act on National Higher Education known as „Lex CEU“ was challenged by a constitutional complaint, the second, the Act of the Transparency of Organizations Receiving Foreign Funds by 60 opposition MPs of the Hungarian Parliament with an abstract norm control notion. The handling of these two petitions by the Constitutional Court was odd in more than just one respect.

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Memory Politics in Hungary: Political Justice without Rule of Law

After the 1989-90 democratic transition, Poland and Hungary were the first to introduce the institutional framework of constitutional democracy and of transitional justice. For a number of reasons, including a lack of democratic traditions and constitutional culture, after the 2010 parliamentary elections, liberal constitutionalism became a victim of the authoritarian efforts of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party. In April 2013, the government as part of the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law adopted Article U, which supplements detailed provisions on the country’s communist past and the statute of limitations in the body text of the constitution.

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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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