Democratic Consolidation in Eastern Europe - Vol. 1

By Jan Zielonka | Go to book overview

15 Hungary's Pliable Constitution

Istvan Szikinger

Hungary is the only country among the emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe without a new constitution. This does not mean that constitutional values are absent in Hungary, nor is there a complete vacuum at the top of Hungary's continental-type hierarchical legal system. Indeed, Hungary's 1989 radical institutional reform coupled with free and fair political competition clearly merits the democratic label. Nevertheless, the current Constitution is far from being a product of deliberate institutional engineering. Instead, it is malleable, reflecting rather than framing the dynamic political current. If evolutionary development and institutional engineering could be seen as two models for implementing political and legal transformation, 1 Hungary has followed the first model. The result has been that the parliamentary system created by the 1989 constitutional amendments has been warped by the formation of a parliamentary 'super-majority' which can easily amend the Constitution further (and has) to suit its political goals. Power is somewhat balanced by a proactive Constitutional Court, but since the Constitution can be changed with such ease, most of the political power remains in the hands of the coalition parties.

Before delving into the analysis of the Hungarian Constitution, it is important to consider the central motives behind its design. András Sajó asserts that fear is a determining factor for legal codification at the highest level. 2 To a great extent, the guarantees

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