HCLU Criticise Constitution Writing Process

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) received an invitation to take part in the work of the Parliamentary Committee on the New Constitution. The HCLU duly declined the invitation.

The HCLU received an invitation from Lehet Más a Politika, Parliamentary party to participate in the work of the Parliamentary Committee on the New Constitution. After receiving the formal invitation letter from Dr. László Salamon, the Head of the Parliamentary Committee, the HCLU took the decision to decline the request.

We summarize hereafter the reasons of our decision:

1. The process of adopting the New Constitution, as we know so far, fails to guarantee a dignified process. The Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister made it clear that a New Constitution will certainly be adopted by latest the end of this Parliamentary term. According to the Eötvös Károly Institute, the deadline by which the ruling parties intended to adopt the new constitution has been changed three times: from 2012 to 2011 June, with the newest deadline being given as early spring 2011. This tinkering is unworthy for such an important undertaking. This deprives the process of a crucial open-ended nature and ostensibly, the decision seems to have been made already. This process rests in sharp contrast to the previous constitution writing process (1994-1998), where despite its failure due to the lack of a 4/5 majority, formal rules guaranteed that the governing parties would seek the consent of the opposition. The current process seems to be based on sheer political power. The Prime Minister convened on his own a separate group of public figures to outline the basic principles of the New Constitution. In parallel the Parliament set up a Parliamentary Committee for the preparation of the New Constitution. As a result, uncertainty reigns within this decision-making process. The HCLU deplores that the process doesn’t meet the requirement of transparency.
The HCLU found the letter from the Parliamentary Committee deeply cynical. The letter simply sought our “proposals” without letting us know what purpose our response and participation would serve in the process; what the process will be like; and how different opinions will be weighted. The HCLU refuses to participate in a non-open and non-transparent process, where its participation would probably only serve to legitimize a process that has been constructed to be heavily dominated by one political side.

2. So far, the HCLU has found the public proposals from the ruling party contrary to the values the HCLU professes. The lack of symbolism in the Constitution is advanced as one of its failures. Some forms of symbolic attachment to the Christian origins and the Glorious Past (Holy Crown) were revoked by the Prime Minister and the President as well. It is worth remembering no example proves that symbolism has any effect on the success of a legal document. That is one reason why the overwhelming majority of European countries refrain from referring to God or a Glorious Past. The second reason for not writing religious references into the Constitution has much to do with the pluralist society we live in. Mentioning the dominant religion would hardly garner the consent of all the people who are under the rule of the Constitution. Because Hungarians go to different churches or refrain from doing so, and hold different opinions on their own history, it is undesirable to have a Constitution that divides the society on religious basis; it should serve to Hungarians on grounds and principles that everyone can voluntarily accept.

3. Finally, we put an emphasis on an important fact: the Constitution is not something unchangeable. However, one arguing for change should raise substantial and cogent arguments that demonstrate the necessity for a new Constitution. Their reasoning should show that the current Constitution fails to realize the ideals of modern Western constitutionalism it seeks to attain. Secondly, it should also be proven that the reasons for this failure are rooted in the current Constitution itself. The ruling political parties are clear on one thing: so far they have fallen short in their attempt to underlie the urgency and the need to adopt a new Constitution. In the HCLU’s opinion the current Constitution facilitates the proper functioning of a democratic government system, that respect human rights and the rule of law for the first time in Hungary’s modern history.



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