Hungary has again made international headlines. As in the recent past, it is because of the political antics of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz cronies, who wield a super-majority presence in the legislative body, Parliament.
Mainstream international media powerhouses like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, Spiegel, and BBC all reported on the newest amendment to the 14-month-old constitution.
The 4th amendment was passed yesterday in the Parliament by 265 votes to 11, with 33 abstentions. Opposing MPs boycotted the vote by walking out of the parliament building prior to the vote.
This occurred despite criticisms from the EU and the European human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that Fidesz must use the two-thirds majority in Parliament responsibly, and that Hungary must seriously regard the concerns of their European partners.
Apart from the new amendments reflecting the narrow-minded bigotry of the Fidesz party, one provision is particularly related to the judicial system. The infamous Tünde Handó, the top administrator of the judicial system, and prosecutors can now legally appoint judges to oversee trials. Of course, this already indirectly occurred in the Hagyó case when Handó approved the case’s transfer from the more politically balanced courts in Budapest to the Fidesz sympathetic Kecskemét Tribunal in the city of Kecskemét.
The 4th amendment only needs the authoritative signature from President Jánós Áder, which will likely happen when he returns from Berlin. Then Handó will not only wield the power to appoint trials to courts, but also the judges. It is also disconcerting that she is the wife of the man who drafted the new constitution, József Szájer, a founding member of the Fidesz party and longtime friend of Prime Minister Orbán.
As Hungary’s judicial system neither conceptually nor actually recognizes a Grand Jury to determine the verdict, instead relying upon the objectivity of the relevant judge, the legitimacy of the judiciary is all but officially engineered to squash government opponents. This includes any sort of dissenting writer, activist, and of course opposing politician.
It is interesting to note that Orbán gave a speech on the same day of the vote. Many assumed that he would address his government’s decisions to continue with the widely criticized vote. Such provisions are usually considered, you know, a big deal. Instead, Orbán proclaimed his support for the long suffering Hungarian populace at the hands of the oppressive court system. This comes in the wake of a recent court decision to allow utility companies to impose additional charges on customers as a result of more taxes mandated by the Hungarian government. Orbán declared the verdict “scandalous” and urged the defenseless citizen “to raise their voices so these companies would realize that they are facing not only the government but the whole nation.”
I do not know which is more outrageous: Orbán himself or the fact that he still has supporters.