“Ruled by a prince, or by the greater number?” -Oedipus, written thousands of years ago
This quote should never be used in this modern day and age but it becomes increasingly apparent that this is becoming the case in Hungary.A newly emerged democratic state, Hungary has quickly regressed back to its old habits. The recent elections have resulted in a landslide for the majority party Fidesz, the conservative option. This gave the party the power to have both the parliament to pass new constitutional measures and the incumbent president to sign it in to law, also a member of the Fidesz. This has resulted in several problems and complications regarding EU policy as well as morality issues.
According to Lydia Gall, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, ““The Hungarian government’s largely cosmetic amendments show it’s not serious about fixing the human rights and rule of law problems in the constitution. It’s come to the point where the European Council and the European Commission need to make clear there will be consequences for Hungary, and to move from talk to action.”
Major problems have still not been addressed in the recent constitutional changes. Religion is still being decided by the government with the power resting with a parliamentary committee. Declaring a religious group a “church” is easy while gaining recognition from the government is the difficult part. All religious groups registering for government subsidies must go through the bureaucracy and red tape, creating an arduous process to create the illusion of freedom of religion.
Another power inherent in the new government is the power of the press. Political campaign ads are now required to solely run on state-run channels and may potentially be banned from independent and commercial broadcasters. These independent broadcasters may also be compelled to run these ads free of charge, which is absolutely ridiculous.
The conservative government has redefined a family as a marriage between a man and a woman or a parent-child relationship, reaffirming the anti-homosexual beliefs of the Fidesz party. Criticizers have declared that these new measures are excessive and unnecessary. Not only addressing this social problem, the constitution also acknowledges the homeless and allows the local authorities to arrest homeless instead of creating programs that help prevent it.
All of these laws had been passed before but struck down by the Constitutional Court so they did the logical thing and got rid of it, or almost. It is no longer allowed to rule over laws that they deem unconstitutional and may not refer to previous cases that addressed new laws. This renders the Constitutional Court practically useless and unable to monitor new laws. What’s the solution?
There is no clear solution in sight but the European Union could be tougher on Hungary. One of the requirements to join the EU is to be a democracy and clearly things have changed. Hungary’s failure to abide by the laws and requirements must be met promptly by the EU or else witness the decay of democracy. Democracy is the key word and the seriousness must be seen from the EU to set a precedent that any future dissenters from freedom will be cut off or required to change. Setting this precedence would be instrumental in preserving democracy and the ethics and morals of the EU.