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Constitutional Court calls for new law on right of assembly

July 14th, 2016

As Hungary’s top court rules that the police did not violate the Constitution by banning a demonstration planned in 2014 in front of PM Orbán’s home, commentators and experts disagree on whether the present legislation on the right of assembly should be reformed or not.

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the authorities did not impose unnecessary limitations on the right to assembly of protesters who demanded the retroactive annulment of FX loan contracts, in front of the Prime Minister’s home two years ago. The protesters had ample space to express their opinion in places where they would not infringe on anybody’s privacy, the court argued. The Constitutional Court court ordered Parliament to draft a new law in order to resolve the currently conflicting regulations concerning the right to assemble and the right to privacy. The government announced that it would draft a new bill by the end of this year.

Népszabadság in a front page editorial finds it controversial that while previous prime ministers had to tolerate demonstrations in front of their homes, the Constitutional Court ‘protected PM Orbán’s interests.’ The leading left-wing daily describes the ruling as “bogus”, and suggests that it was motivated by political considerations. Népszabadság thinks that if the Constitutional Court’s words are taken seriously, it would only be possible to hold demonstrations at completely uninhabited locations.

In Magyar Nemzet, Miklós Ugró also recalls that demonstrations were allowed in front of the homes of former prime ministers. He also wonders whether it follows from the Constitutional Court’s ruling that all protests held in the past years violated the right of privacy of bystanders.

In Magyar Idők, political analyst Miklós Szántó says that the law on the freedom of assembly hastily adopted in early 1989 was a breakthrough, and nobody bothered to address sophisticated issues at that time. He thinks it is high time now to decide under what conditions a demonstration can be banned, for instance in order to protect the courts against undue public pressure.

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