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New round of constitutional amendments in sight

February 11th, 2013

The leading left-wing daily contends that the government wants to curtail the rights of the Constitutional Court by amending the Basic Law. A conservative lawyer, on the other hand, criticizes the Constitutional Court for not strictly applying the principles of the new Basic Law.

The government has announced a new round of amendments to the Basic Law. Among others, several of the rules included in the Transitional Provisions which were struck down by the Constitutional Court in December (see BudaPost December 31) are to be incorporated into the body of the Basic Law. Another amendment proposed by Fidesz would stipulate that the Constitutional Court cannot without further reasoning ground its decision on norms derived from the previous Constitution.

With the new amendement, the government wants to tie the hands of the Constitutional Court, Népszabadság comments. The left-wing daily suggests that the current Constitutional Court – which, it notes, will soon be dominated by nominees of the current Fidesz government – will now have the opportunity to completely ignore past Constitutional norms, and interpret the Basic Law according to the will of the legislator. Two of the current judges will retire by April, and with their replacement, judges nominated by the current government will constitute a majority.

In Magyar Nemzet, Attila Ádám notes that it is fully in-line with basic constitutional norms to restrict the Constitutional Court’s jurisdiction by limiting its ability to ground decisions on repealed constitutional provisions and related precedents. The legal expert argues out that this was precisely the approach followed by the Constitutional Court in the aftermath of the 1990 democratic turn. In its rulings, the Constitutional Court strictly followed the Constitutional norms agreed on by the democratic opposition parties and the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party in 1989, rather than past legal precedents. The ‘excessive use of precedents,’ he adds, prevented the principles of the new Basic Law effective from 2012 from being reflected in the rulings of the Constitutional Court. Ádám notes, however, that the restriction on the use of legal precedents proposed by the government may not in itself prove successful in “restoring the rule of law,” since the Constitutional Court can nonetheless interpret the Basic Law according to its own taste. He suggests that the Constitutional Court will only prove willing to apply the principles of the current Basic Law in a stricter manner, if judges willing to rely exclusively on these norms are elected to the supreme judicial body.

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