Hungary's Government Has Taken Control of the Constitutional Court

The Hungarian government has filled the Constitutional Court with loyal judges to create a judicial rubber stamp for government interests, according to a study by Hungarian NGOs of recent Constitutional Court decisions.

The Hungarian Constitutional Court has been packed with judges supportive of the governing majority’s agenda. Through appointing new judges, amending rules and increasing the size of the court, the ruling Fidesz government has succeeded in shaping the Constitutional Court into a loyal body, as opposed to the independent and genuine counterbalance to government power it used to represent.

Three Hungarian NGOs—Eötvös Károly Institute, Hungarian Helsinki Committee and Hungarian Civil Liberties Union— studied 23 high-profile cases, 10 of which were decided before Fidesz-appointed judges constituted a majority, and 13 after. While rulings in all 10 cases decided before the judges selected by the current government formed a majority had been contrary to the interests of the government, as soon as the 'one-party' judges represented the majority, the imbalance became apparent: in 10 out of 13 cases the ruling favored the government's interests.

Some judges were found to have voted in support of the government in 100 percent of cases. Judges Egon Dienes-Oehm, Béla Pokol and Mária Szívós almost always decided in favor of the supposed interests of the government even before the new judges came to form a majority.

So how has the Hungarian Constitutional Court ended up like this? The two-thirds majority in parliament amended the legislation on the composition of the Constitutional Court in three ways:

As a consequence of all this, 11 of the 15 judges have been confirmed to the court by the Fidesz-KDNP (Christian Democratic People's Party) majority without any negotiations with the opposition.

Apart from the results discussed above, the study contains profiles of the individual judges, assessing their opinions on the judicial process and its relationship to democracy, elections, democratic debates, the separation of power and the safeguards of independence. The analyses present in detail the features of decision making characteristic of each judge. Summary tables also support the better understanding of the cases under examination and the judicial practice of judges.

Click here for a longer summary of the analysis. 

Share

Related articles

Inadequate response to the Venice Commission’s criticism

In March 2012 the Venice Commission issued an opinion regarding the new Hungarian cardinal laws on the court system and the judiciary, stating that “the reform as a whole threatens the independence of the judiciary”. The Hungarian Government has initiated an amendment of the two cardinal laws in question, apparently as a result of the Venice Commission’s opinion. However, the proposed amendments do not eliminate the conceptional problems of the new regulation.

NATIONAL HOLIDAYS DO NOT GIVE THE GOVERNMENT AN EXCUSE TO SHUT OUT OPPOSING OPINIONS!

The government has submitted an amendment proposal that would exclude protests from the most important, symbolic public squares of Budapest during national holidays. Furthermore, it would empower local governments to remove further areas a no-protest zone.

HCLU: The Hungarian Example

Presented by Máté Dániel Szabó (Director of Programs, HCLU) at the international conference "No country for civil society – What strategies can human rights organizations follow under increasingly authoritarian regimes?" on 30 May, 2014, Budapest