illiberal State

Building a new “illiberal State”

Since 2012, a series of legal changes, including via the New Fundamental Law that replaced the Constitution in 2012, have weakened checks on the executive and have had a detrimental effect on the judiciary in Hungary.

Undermining Independence of the Judiciary

The powers of the Constitutional Court have been weakened by a combination of the New Fundamental Law, its March 2013 Fourth Amendment, and related laws, undermining its ability to serve as a check on the executive authority. For instance, the court is no longer able to review laws pertaining to the central budget and taxation issues and is not able to hear cases of public concern, brought by NGOs and others. The court is also restricted from ruling on the substance of constitutional amendments, and prevented from consulting its own case law prior to January 2012.

The restructuring of the constitutional court in 2011 resulted in a majority of judges on the bench being appointed by the ruling party. The president of the National Judicial Office, a post appointed by the parliament, retains the power to block candidates nominated by the National Judicial Council for judicial appointments by declaring the process void and restarting it. Furthermore, many new political appointments to the Constitutional Court and public institutions – such as the Media Authority, National Judicial Office – have been made by the government.

Weakening checks on the Executive power

Executive power

Despite the New Fundamental Law receiving criticism from the Hungarian Constitutional Court, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Prime Minister Orbán introduced an amendment to the new Constitution in March 2013 stating that the legislative and executive powers now surpass that the of judiciary . More generally, Prime Minister Orbán has made some deeply concerning statements on the role of liberal democracy. During a speech he gave in 2014, he glorified the regimes of Singapore, China, India, Russia and Turkey and questioned liberal values, he stated…

“…a democracy is not necessarily liberal. Just because something is not liberal, it still can be a democracy. Moreover, it could be and needed to be expressed, that probably societies founded upon the principle of the liberal way to organize a state will not be able to sustain their world-competitiveness in the following years, and more likely they will suffer a setback, unless they will be able to substantially reform themselves.”

In June 2015, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on this current situation in Hungary. The Parliament urged the Commission to monitor the situation of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary“. The European Commission answered that “there was no systemic threat on those rights”.

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