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Dispute over the meaning of the ‘rule of law’

October 15th, 2020

A conservative commentator suggests that the ‘rule of law’ is an empty concept used as a blunt weapon by liberals. A former Socialist Minister of Justice defends the concept, and accuses the government of trying to pre-empt EU criticism.

In Magyar Hírlap, Katalin Kondor asserts that the ‘rule of law’ and ‘European values’ are concepts interpreted arbitrarily by a ‘pseudo-liberal’ group that sees itself as a global élite. Kondor thinks that critics of the government in Hungary as well as those in Europe use wishy-washy accusations rather than making straightforward arguments. Such vague language pre-empts any meaningful discussion, and may mislead voters, she complains.

In Népszava Pál Vastagh, a founding MSZP member and former Minister of Justice, who also served as a regional party secretary and Political Bureau member two years before the fall of Communism, believes, on the other hand, that rule of law criteria are clearly identifiable. He lists six of them, from the primacy of the law to the independence of the judiciary. The rule of law is important, he writes, because its absence means arbitrary rule.

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