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President Áder to sign the amendments

March 14th, 2013

The President has announced that he will sign the controversial amendments to the Constitution. Earlier, a left-wing pundit argued that he should raise his voice against them. A pro-government legal expert objected that the President had no other lawful option than to promulgate the amendments.

President Áder told Hungarian Public Television on Wednesday evening that it was his duty to sign and promulgate the amendments to the Basic Law passed in parliament on Monday. Earlier, left-liberal human rights watchdog organisations appealed to him in an open letter to submit the amendments to the Constitutional Court for revision, or resign in protest, if he deemed he could not do so legally. Former President of the Republic and of the Constitutional Court László Sólyom argued on Monday that although the Constitution formally gives no elbow room to the President in such cases, this time the amendments threaten to change the character of the Basic Law itself and therefore the President may invoke his duty as guardian of democracy and the rule of law and refuse to sign. Mr Áder himself said no matter what his personal opinion might be, the Basic Law leaves him with no option but to sign the amendments.

In Népszava, Iván Andrassew did not hold out much hope that the President would reject the amendments, after he signed the appointment of former Economy Minister György Matolcsy as President of the National Bank last week, although the latter is “personally and professionally unfit for the job.” In any case, Andrassew writes, Mr Áder should have warned Parliament beforehand to postpone the vote on the amendments, until the Venice Commission (the legal advisory body of the Council of Europe) expresses its opinion on them. In addition, the left-wing commentator believes that the President should call on the Prime Minister to resign after Mr Orbán’s “appalling attack on the courts” on Monday, when he told Parliament that the ruling against the 10 per cent cut in utility tariffs “was a scandal.” (See BudaPost, March 13)

In Magyar Nemzet, public law expert Zoltán Lomniczi Jr. quotes a series of articles from the Basic Law as well as a number of resolutions taken by the Constitutional Court to prove that President Áder has no choice, once he receives the text of the new amendments from the Speaker of Parliament. The Basic Law stipulates, in fact, that once the text is officially delivered to his office, he has to sign it within five days. At any rate, Lomniczi continues, he could not refer the matter to the Constitutional Court, for the judges have no right to scrap constitutional provisions. In the nineteen nineties the issue was on the agenda of the Constitutional Court several times, and the judges decided in each case that they had no right to revise the articles of the Constitution. Professor Sólyom, while serving as President of the Constitutional Court, gave a lengthy explanation to underpin that position. “The question is when he actually meant what he said,” – Lomniczi concludes poignantly.

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