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Hungary's parliament amends constitution despite protests


16:39, March 12, 2013

BUDAPEST, March 11 (Xinhua) -- The Fidesz party, which holds a two-thirds majority in Hungary's parliament, on Monday adopted a fourth set of amendments to the constitution which took effect in January 2012, ignoring domestic protests and international voices of concern.

The current amendment limits political campaign ads in the private media, gives the chief prosecutor the right to pick judges for various cases, restricts the definition of a family to marriage, specifying that it must be between a man and a woman, all of which the high court had thrown out when passed as laws. It also bans judges from citing precedents adopted by the Constitutional Court prior to enactment of the current constitution.

The amendment has also banned homeless people from residing/sleeping in public places and has stipulated that young people awarded state scholarships to college will be obliged to work in Hungary after finishing school.

International bodies including the European Union, the Council of Europe, and Amnesty International as well as countries such as the United States and Germany had called on Hungary to reconsider the move while domestic opposition parties and private citizens had organized protest demonstrations outside parliament.

Most recently Hungary's former President Laszlo Solyom, himself a justice on the first Constitutional Court in 1990, has called on current president Janos Ader to veto the amendment before the law of the land is irreversibly altered to become the opposite of the original constitution.

Solyom charged the administration with placing itself above the Constitutional Court and responding to each of its mandatory decisions by altering the constitution to thwart the court.

Hungary has ignored all oppositions, including a warning by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, that the changes were jeopardizing rule of law.

In fact, Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded by saying he was sure he could count on Barroso's personal support and on the cooperation of the European Commission. Orban had pledged "full commitment" to "European norms and rules" in a letter to Barroso, while in a letter to the European Union (EU) foreign ministers, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said the criticism had been fueled by misunderstandings and inadequate information.

Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics said Hungary could not accept the "policy of pressure" and found it inconceivable that a sovereign Hungarian parliament "could be told what to do ... from abroad."

The EU has few opportunities for sanctions considered to be in violation of basic EU values. At most, it can suspend voting rights but even this requires a lengthy procedure.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Germany, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands have called on the EU to cut funding for members that violate its democratic values.

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