authoritarianism, Elections, Human Rights, Populism, Radical extremism, xenofobia

The autocracy grows without limits in Hungary

Nov 26 2020

By !!444!!! InsightHungary!!!  (*)

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki met in Budapest Thursday to discuss the European Union’s €1.8 trillion seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery package, which hit a roadblock after the two countries vetoed its adoption in Brussels last week. 

The leaders affirmed that they will continue to oppose any provisions of the budget plan which would link the disbursal of EU funds to rule of law criteria. The Hungarian government has argued such conditions are arbitrary and would require amendments to EU treaties, and made spurious accusations that they are an attempt to force Hungary to accept immigrants.

According to a joint statement by Orbán and Morawiecki, they propose a “two-track process” to limit the scope of  budgetary conditionality while holding negotiations in the European Council on whether a such a link should be established. 

“We have decided to align our positions on these issues. Neither Poland, nor Hungary will accept any proposal that is deemed unacceptable by the other,” their joint statement reads.

In an interview with German weekly Die Zeit published Wednesday, Orbán accused the European Parliament of retroactively adding the rule of law conditions following a July budget agreement he said didn’t include them. (Rule of law linkage was included in the EP’s July budget agreement – ed.)

Orbán said decisions on the rule of law should be postponed until after the budget and recovery package were settled.

But some European leaders insist that the rule of law mechanism is non-negotiable. On Wednesday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said Hungary and Poland should end their veto of the budget and take their complaints to the European Court of Justice. The rule of law provisions only apply to cases that threaten the EU budget, she said, adding, “It is very difficult to imagine anybody in Europe who would possibly have anything against that principle.”

Orbán’s decision to veto the economic package was also met with resistance in the European People’s Party, the European conservative political family of which Fidesz is a suspended member. 

Manfred Weber, the leader of the EPP, called Poland and Hungary’s veto “irresponsible,” and denied claims that the rule of law mechanism would be used as a tool of political pressure. 

On the weekend, Weber told a Belgian newspaper that were it not for the coronavirus pandemic, the EPP would have already voted Fidesz out of the party family. EPP members are increasingly impatient over Orbán’s veto of the budget, which has cost him a loss of support within the group, Weber said. (Fidesz was suspended from the EPP in March 2019 over violations of the party family’s democratic values.)

Hungary and Poland are the two largest net beneficiaries of EU cohesion funds, and the only two EU member states to have Article 7 proceedings launched against them for breaches of democratic standards. 

Amendment to election law could further burden opposition parties 

The parliamentary justice committee voted 8-4 on Tuesday to approve an amendment to election law that would further narrow the path to victory for Hungary’s opposition parties in 2022 elections.

If passed by the Fidesz supermajority in Parliament, the proposal, submitted by independent MP János Volner (formerly of Jobbik and the Mi Hazánk Movement), would increase the number of constituencies where parties must field candidates in order for them to form a national party list.

Currently, parties must field candidates in at least 27 of Hungary’s 106 constituencies to form a party list. But the proposed changes would increase that number to 71 constituencies, and bump the minimum number of counties where candidates must be fielded from nine to 14. 

The proposed changes come after a similar bill was submitted at one minute before midnight on November 10 by Justice Minister Judit Varga, which proposed raising the minimum number of constituencies to 50. 

Government officials have argued that the changes are necessary to clamp down on fake parties taking advantage of state subsidies for electoral campaigns, but it is unclear why two amendments were proposed.

If passed, the measures would force the six largest opposition parties to form a single national list. The opposition has already committed to coordinating candidates in each of the 106 constituencies to ensure that only one opposition candidate runs against the Fidesz candidate. But the multiparty negotiations have been accompanied by internal disagreements over whether to present a single common list. 

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyás said at a press conference on November 12 that the changes had “nothing in the world to do” with the opposition’s strategy to unite against Fidesz in 2022 national elections.

Human rights commissioner urges Hungarian parliament to delay vote on draft bills

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner has urged Hungary’s Parliament to postpone a vote on several draft bills – including constitutional amendments – submitted last week by governing party officials, arguing they “could have serious adverse effects on human rights in the country.” 

Dunja Mijatovi? said on Friday that a vote on the measures should be delayed until after the coronavirus state of emergency is lifted, and following broad consultations on the legislation with the Hungarian public.

“I fear that several proposals contained in the complex legislative package, submitted without prior consultation and relating to matters including the functioning of the judiciary, election law, national human rights structures, scrutiny over public funds, and the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people, could serve to undermine democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Hungary,” Mijatovi?  said.

(Read about the contents of the draft bills in our article from last week by clicking here.)

The commissioner said she was “alarmed by the apparent escalation of the stigmatisation of LGBTI people and the manipulation of their dignity and rights for political gain.” She criticized the proposal to disallow single people or same-sex couples from adopting children, and the mechanism for exceptional authorization which would be held by Minister for Family Affairs Katalin Novák. 

Mijatovi?  also raised concerns over a proposal to merge Hungary’s Equal Treatment Authority into the office of the Ombudsman. While member states have some discretion to organise their national human rights structures as they see fit, it is crucial that in doing so they respect fundamental principles agreed on at the international level, especially the need to guarantee and respect the independence and effectiveness of such bodies, she said. 26.11.2020

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*!!444!!! InsightHungary, is one of the few independent media beyond the control of autocratic regime of Viktor Orbán. 

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