Fidesz confident of 2/3rds support for constitutional amendments – Update
Budapest, January 22 (MTI) – It appears the two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment that creates the conditions to handle a terrorist threat will prevail, Gergely Gulyas, the head of parliament’s legislative committee, has said in a newspaper interview.
The government has proposed amending the constitution to include a “state of terrorist threat” among instances that mandate the domestic deployment of the armed forces.
Ruling Fidesz and its allied Christian Democrats need the support of opposition lawmakers to pass the amendment, Gulyas told Friday’s issue of the daily Magyar Idok.
He also insisted that the two-thirds support needed to elect a new president and four new judges to the constitutional court will materialise thanks to government efforts to reach out to the opposition.
“Neither the functioning of the constitutional system nor the protection of Hungary’s citizens can be a subject for debate,” said Gulyas, who is a Fidesz deputy chairman.
It is far from the case that the governing alliance wants to seize “full powers” through the constitutional amendment, he said, noting that the package of proposals, which include amendments to the defence and national security laws, are in response to a crisis, and aim to protect the country and its citizens. The timetable is for the package to be submitted by Feb. 9 so a debate can be held in parliament’s first session on Feb. 15, he added.
Under the amendment the government could declare a state of terrorist threat after a terrorist attack or during a period of a high threat of terrorism. In such an instance, the government would be authorised to pass decrees that would suspend or deviate from certain laws while leaving the provisions of the constitution intact. These decrees would remain effective for 60-day periods and would expire if parliament does not renew them before the 60 days are up.
Jobbik will only support the constitutional amendment on condition that all of the party’s proposals are accepted by the government and will be incorporated, a party spokesman told a press conference. Jobbik agrees with the main thrust of the legislation but rejects the possibility of enforcing regulations on an ad-hoc basis, Adam Mirkoczki told a press conference. A state of terrorism threat should be declared only with the approval of four-fifth of lawmakers, he said, adding that otherwise Fidesz may seek to seize “full powers” by exploiting public fear. Jobbik also proposes an extendable 30-day window, Mirkoczki said. The proposal to put commercial radio and TV in the government’s hands in the instance of a terrorist threat evokes the “darkest era of dictatorship,” he added.
The opposition Egyutt party will not support the amendment which it sees as a tool used by ruling Fidesz for its own political campaign purposes, the leader of the party told a press conference. Hungary’s laws in place over the past 25 years fully cater to the protection of the country’s citizens, Viktor Szigetvari said.
Concerning a related draft proposal by the Socialist Party, he said it was regrettable that Egyutt had only learned about it from media reports.
The ruling Fidesz accused the opposition on Friday of not supporting the effective fight against terrorism. Gulyas told a press conference that Jobbik’s proposal about the four-fifth parliamentary majority requirement was non-viable and senseless because it would make the fight against terrorism impossible. He said Fidesz was not against parliamentary control but “when information arrives about the possibility of a terrorist act within a few hours, then it would be the greatest irresponsibility to make the introduction of a state of terrorist threat dependent on parliament’s decision”.
“We have grown accustomed to left-wing parties’ irresponsible behaviour” but it is a new development that Jobbik’s position is close to the left-wing parties’, effectively preventing swift action against terrorism.
Gulyas said they remained open to further consultations “but we would like a solution and not senseless compromises”.
In response to a question, he said they were also open to consultations about shorterning the time period, from the current 60 days, during which the state of terrorist threat would be in force.