April 15 Parliament will vote on Hungary's new
constitution on Monday, launching an ambitious programme to
rewrite major legislation by the end of the year.
Many important areas will be covered in separate laws
requiring a two-thirds majority in parliament. Hungary has had
dozens of laws which need a two-thirds majority, which often
made it difficult for governments to implement change.
For a news story on the constitution vote, click on
Following are some of the key changes:
CENTRAL BANK (Article 41)
The law governing the National Bank of Hungary will be
elevated from simple majority to a two-third super-majority. The
content of much of the new central bank law is not yet known.
The constitution leaves unchanged the six year terms of the
governor and two vice-governors of the central bank. The
president will appoint all three officials. To date, the
governor has had the right to pick his two deputies.
DEBT CEILING (Article 36-37)
The constitution says Hungary's public debt must not exceed
50 percent of the previous year's gross domestic product (GDP)
except in extraordinary circumstances or a prolonged and
As long as debt is above 50 percent of GDP, parliament must
run a budget surplus to ensure debt remains on a downwards
trajectory. The constitution does not set a deadline for cutting
state debt to 50 percent of GDP from 80 percent currently.
THE FISCAL COUNCIL (Article 43)
The government has reformed the Fiscal Council, which the
new constitution gives strong powers to oversee the budget.
It will have a right of veto over the budget, giving it a
strong say on fiscal policy. The constitution gives the
president the right to dissolve parliament if it fails to pass a
budget by the end of March. (Article 3)
The three members of the Fiscal Council are the Chairman
(appointed by the President for 6 years), the Chairman of the
State Audit Office and the Governor of the central bank. The
first two have been appointed by the incumbent government.
FORINT CURRENCY (Article K)
The constitution states Hungary's legal tender is the
Forint. Because the constitution requires a two-thirds majority
to change, it may prove difficult for Hungary to adopt the euro
currency, as the government then in power may not enjoy a
two-thirds majority and would need a cross-party consensus that
might be difficult to secure.
Hungary is not seen adopting the euro before 2019.
POINTS DISPUTED BY CIVIC GROUPS
-- The constitution stipulates that the life of the fetus
should be protected from conception.
-- It defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
-- Some civil society groups complain the preamble of the
constitution reflects Christian/nationalist thinking, rather
than ideological neutrality.
The new constitution says Hungary should bear responsibility
for the millions of Hungarians living abroad. It no longer
contains a clause requiring Hungarian residency to qualify for
the right to vote, although it allows the government to enact
such a condition in a separate law.
Leaving out the residency requirement may allow the
government to extend voting rights to all Hungarian citizens,
analysts said. On taking power last year the government granted
citizenship to all ethnic Hungarians who applied for it.
The constitution incorporates temporary curbs on Hungary's
top court enacted last year.
The court can only overrule legislation on the budget, tax
and customs issues if they infringe basic rights to life and
human dignity, the protection of personal data and freedom of
thought, conscience and religion. (article 24)
The curb on the court's powers will be lifted once the
public debt sinks below 50 percent of GDP.
-- The Constitutional Court will have 15 members instead of
11, elected by parliament for 12 years rather than nine years
now. (Article 24)
-- A new institution, the Kuria, is established to oversee
the judicial system whose chairman will be elected by Parliament
for 9 years. (Article 25)
-- The Constitution confirms previous government legislation
lengthening the term of the chief prosecutor to nine years from
six (Article 29), and doubles the mandate of the head of the
State Audit Office to 12 years (Article 42).
-- Local governments will be elected for five instead of
four years to abolish a link to the parliamentary elections
cycle. That has in the past encouraged new governments to
subordinate national policy to the need to perform well in local
polls (Article 35).
-- The government will be allowed to veto borrowing by local
governments (Article 34).
(Reporting by Marton Dunai/Sandor Peto; Editing by Jon Boyle)