Constitution of Hungary

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The Fundamental Law of Hungary (Hungarian: Magyarország Alaptörvénye), the country's constitution, was adopted on 18 April 2011, promulgated a week later and entered into force on 1 January 2012. It is Hungary's first constitution adopted within a democratic framework and following free elections. The document succeeded the 1949 Constitution, originally adopted at the creation of the Hungarian People's Republic on 20 August 1949 and heavily amended on 23 October 1989. The 1949 Constitution was Hungary's first permanent written constitution and until it was replaced, the country was the only former Eastern Bloc nation without an entirely new constitution after the end of Communism.

Both domestically and abroad, the 2011 constitution has been the subject of controversy. Among the claims critics make are that it was adopted without sufficient input from the opposition and society at large, that it reflects the ideology of the ruling Fidesz party, and enshrines it in office, that it is rooted in a conservative Christian worldview despite Hungary not being a particularly devout country, and that it curtails and politicizes previously independent institutions. The government that enacted the charter has dismissed such assertions, saying it was enshrined lawfully and reflects the popular will.

Contents

The constitution is divided into sections and articles as outlined below.

Section and article(s) Subject area(s) Notes
National Avowal (preamble)
Foundation 21 articles (A-U) specifying the country's name, capital, official language, symbols, etc.
Freedom and Responsibility 31 articles (I-XXXI) covering citizens' rights and duties
The State 54 articles covering the state's attributes
1-7 The National Assembly
8 National Referendums
9-14 The President of the Republic
15-22 The Government
23 Autonomous Regulatory Organs
24 The Constitutional Court
25-28 Courts
29 The Prosecution Service
30 The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights
31-35 Local Governments
36-44 Public Finances
45 The Hungarian Defence Forces
46 The Police and National Security Services
47 Decisions on Participation in Military Operations
48-54 Special Legal Orders Provisions concerning state of national crisis, state of emergency,
state of preventive defence, unexpected attack and state of danger
Closing and Miscellaneous Provisions[1][2][3]

Overview

Described as socially and fiscally conservative,[4] the constitution initiates a number of changes. In an effort to push the public debt below 50% of gross domestic product (from above 80% at the time of adoption), the powers of the Constitutional Court on budget and tax matters are restricted until debt falls below 50%. The President is allowed to dissolve Parliament if a budget is not approved, and only companies with transparent activities and ownership structures are allowed to bid for government contracts. The powers of the head of the Hungarian National Bank are also limited, and the modification of tax and pension laws requires a two-thirds majority.[5][4] The life of a fetus is protected from the moment of conception, and although the move is seen as opening the possibility for a future ban or restrictions on abortion,[4] existing laws were unaffected.[6] Same-sex couples may legally register their partnerships, but marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman. A ban on discrimination does not mention age or sexual orientation, and the constitution allows life imprisonment for violent crimes without the possibility of parole.[4]

The constitution lowers judges' mandatory retirement age from 70 to the general retirement age, which was 62 at the time of adoption and is set to rise to 65 by 2022.[7][8][9] The provision also covers prosecutors, while the Prosecutor General and the head of the Curia are exempt.[10] The country's name is changed from "Hungarian Republic" to "Hungary", and although the country remains a republic,[11] the preamble contains references to the Holy Crown, as well as to God, Christianity, the fatherland and traditional family values.[12] Certain issue areas, such as family policy, the pension system and taxation, formerly under the purview of the government in office, can be altered only through cardinal Acts passed by a two-thirds majority and not subject to constitutional review.[13][14]