16 March 2011
The Eötvös Károly Institute, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee compiled a joint analysison the process of framing the new Constitution of Hungary. The three NGOs submitted their comments to the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters, which will form an opinion in the near future on the process of framing the new Constitution of Hungary. According to the analysis, the current way of designing the Constitution makes one doubt whether this document will be worthy of being called the Constitution of Hungary. The NGOs claim that the need for a new Constitution was not supported by adequate reasons, the new Constitution has been prepared in secret, the open public debate and the debate of experts over the text was missed and due to procedural rules of adopting it, the new Constitution will be the product of one political party.
The critical remarks of the Eötvös Károly Institute, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee can be summarized as follows:
1. The need for a new Constitution was not supported by clear and conclusive reasons and the aims of creating a new Constitution remained unknown in the course of the constitution-making process. Furthermore, the political community had no chance to declare whether it wants a new Constitution or not.
2. The pace of the constitution-making process is so fast that discussing the draft Constitution is impossible.
3. The new Constitution has been prepared in secret, the names of experts and lawyers who are working on the text of the Constitution and their mandate are not disclosed by the government. The concept paper prepared by the parliamentary committee responsible was put aside and according to recent news, the draft text of the Constitution was compiled by a group of three politicians, József Szájer, László Salamon and Gergely Gulyás, who have never been mandated by the Parliament. Thus those framing the new Constitution had dubious democratic legitimacy.
4. The new Constitution of Hungary will be the product of one political party, since thegoverning parties got rid of the article of the Constitution which was meant to force the cooperation of the ruling parties with the opposition while framing the new Constitution. Therefore, the new Constitution is being prepared exclusively by the ruling political parties. Neither on the need for, nor on the content of the new Constitution has consensus emerged among legal experts and the society at large.
5. The constitution-writing process failed to institute any debate of experts.In late 2010, early 2011 numerous conferences addressed the subject of the Constitution and constitutionality. However, without any substantive and coherent proposal from the government, those debates were not about the goals and the principles of the ongoing procedure and a meaningful debate could not take place.
6. The open public debate of the new Constitution has been missed completely. The public debate within the society on the Constitution was conducted by two deceptive tools: by the creation of a website that provided the opportunity for everyone to make her or his opinion heard on the matter (the “Constitution blog”) and by a 12-question questionnaire sent to 8 million citizens. However, neither the lonely blogger on the Constitution blog, nor the citizen who replies to the questionnaire in a conscientious manner, can be deemed to be a real contributor. As a matter of fact, no one knows what purpose the blog posts will serve, moreover it is unclear whether the answers given to the questionnaire will be processed, and if yes, how and who will be charged with the process, and what impact it is meant to have on the overall process. Since the proposed text of the Constitution was submitted to the Parliament only two weeks after posting the questionnaires, the answers of citizens could not have been taken into consideration. Moreover, the questionnaire does not cover important dilemmas such as the separation of church and the state and the powers of the Constitutional Court.
The full text of the analysis is available here.