Hungarian parliament adopts new constitution despite protests, opposition boycotts

14:32, April 19, 2011      

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A general view of the Hungarian parliament's assembly hall in Budapest, April 18, 2011during a final vote on the country's new constitution which was boycotted by the opposition Socialists and liberal LMP parties. Hungary's parliament approved the country's new constitution on Monday with votes only from the ruling centre-right Fidesz-KDNP which has a two-thirds majority in the house.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Hungary's parliament adopted a new constitution on Monday, taking full advantage of the governing Fidesz party's two-thirds majority to adopt a fundamental law of the land that many critics say will give them power for years to come, whether in or out of office.

The constitution was voted into law by 262 members of the 386- seat parliament. There were 44 votes against and one abstention. The opposition left-wing Socialists and green LMP party boycotted the session and the vote, arguing that the new law reflected the Fidesz party's political will and disregarded popular opinion. The new constitution takes effect on January 1, 2012.

According to public opinion polls taken last week by the Median pollster, nearly 60 percent of Hungarians thought a referendum should have been held, while 41 percent felt that no new constitution was necessary.

Speaker of Parliament Laszlo Kover called the vote a " historical moment." He termed it the conclusion of a 67-year-long era in which the country lacked a legitimate constitution.

The previous constitution was drafted in 1949 by the newly formed communist government, but was extensively amended in 1989 through negotiations resting on nationwide consensus.

According to Kover, the new constitution "rests on Hungarian history and tradition but has its eye on the future and seeks and offers responses to today's problems."

While financial markets have given a thumbs up to certain aspects of the law, which includes provisions intended to reduce the government deficit to below 50 percent of the gross domestic product, people have been less pleased with curbs on the powers of the Constitutional Court and the requirement of a two-thirds majority to amend tax and pension laws.

Amnesty International has voiced reservations on certain portions of the new law, suggesting that the declared protection of the life of a fetus from the moment of conception could be an overture to a ban on abortion. It also noted that a ban on discrimination does not include age-discrimination or discrimination because of sexual orientation. The new constitution defines marriage as a union "between a man and a woman."

Kover, after adoption of the new constitution, declared it legitimate, national, non-exclusive, and integrating.

The opposition argues that it will extend the powers of the current government for many years after they are voted out of office and will limit civil liberties.

Peter Szijjarto, spokesman for the prime minister called it " fundamental law every Hungarian can be proud of."

Guy Verhofstadt, head of the European Parliament's liberal section has called it a Trojan horse for a more authoritarian political system in Hungary based on one party rule."

Source: Xinhua
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