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Might the Constitution prove not to be a stumbling block?

July 4th, 2011

Two board members of the think tank set up by the last left wing Prime Minister argue for a compromise between right and left in Hungary over the controversial new Constitution.

“If we insist on staying, as a matter of principle, behind the barricades, then we will reproduce precisely those elements of the heritage of the past twenty years which we should leave behind,” write Viktor Szigetvári (the Socialist Party’s campaign manager before last year’s elections) and Csaba Tordai (who spent three years as state secretary in Socialist-led governments). Both are now on the board of former PM Gordon Bajnai’s think tank.

Their views are contained in an article in Élet és Irodalom, in the form of a reply to a hypothesis developed by former liberal MP Mátyás Eörsi, according to whom the new constitution will have to be amended by unconstitutional means in the future. Eörsi contended that even if PM Viktor Orbán were to lose at the next elections, the new majority would not possess two thirds of the mandates.

Fidesz would never agree to any amendment to its own constitution which leaves space for its appointees to topple the new government. The new majority, therefore, Eörsi suggests, will have no option but to amend the constitution by a politically legitimate, but illegal referendum.

Szigetvári and Tordai do not discuss the plausibility of that scenario, but believe that in the event that the left does win the 2014 elections, a compromise with Fidesz would be possible. Fidesz ought to relinquish certain constitutional rules which make the job of the new government difficult, while the left should leave the ideologically inspired preamble of the constitution untouched. For now, the left wing opposition is fiercely critical of the preamble which it dismisses as a collection of right wing and clerical opinions. Szigetvári and Tordai argue that political stability can only be achieved in the long run if the left accepts that “no matter how superior it believes its own world outlook to be, another Hungary exists opposed to it, with its own taboos and icons”.

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