Budapest (MTI) – The government has proposed amending the constitution to include a so-called “state of terrorist threat” among instances that mandate the mobilisation and, if need be, the domestic deployment of the armed forces.
Speaking after Defence Minister Istvan Simicsko’s talks with four of the five parliamentary parties on the matter, Fidesz deputy group leader Gergely Gulyas said the worsening security situation in Europe calls for instances of terrorist threats to be regulated by the constitution. The Socialist Party stayed away from the talks.
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.
During such periods, parliament would mandate the armed forces to assist the police in national security tasks, Gulyas said, noting that the army was given similar assignments during the state of crisis declared due to mass migration in the autumn.
The motion will require a two-thirds support by deputies to clear parliament, including votes by opposition MPs.
Gulyas said he regretted that the Socialists did not take part in the talks. He said the radical nationalist Jobbik party and green LMP supported the motion in general, adding, however, that both parties disagreed on some details of the proposal.
Jobbik said it supports amending the constitution to introduce a state of terrorist threat but it will review the government’s specific proposal on the matter and comment on it within a week. Elod Novak, the party’s deputy leader, noted that Jobbik submitted a similar amendment proposal to parliament in August, but the legislative body rejected it. Novak said Jobbik only received a copy of the proposal a few hours before the meeting with the defence minister was due to begin, which was why the party has asked for a week to look it over to make sure no part of the proposal would lead to civil rights abuses.
On another subject, Novak welcomed Simicsko’s support of Jobbik’s proposal to establish a volunteer army with free basic training. He said that under the proposal the volunteers could not be deployed in foreign missions. Jobbik also requested the defence minister to withdraw the regular army from foreign missions as well and not to deploy the troops in the future either, as their participation in those missions raises the threat of terrorism in Hungary.
Jobbik lawmaker Gergely Kulcsar said he had asked the government to re-think Hungary’s participation in foreign missions and the fight against the Islamic State militant group.
The Socialist Party said it would submit its own proposal concerning the management of terrorist threats, arguing that the government’s proposal fails to provide a sufficient level of security to the people nor does it leave enough room for parliamentary control. Party leader Jozsef Tobias said the government’s proposal “made it clear” that the government is only interested in gaining special powers during potential states of terrorist threat. He said his party would always support measures that strengthen national security but it would not allow Prime Minister Viktor Orban to abuse his powers under the guise of counter-terrorism measures.
LMP said it would not support granting the government the power to enforce special measures — restricting various freedoms in the process — in periods of high threats of terrorism without parliament’s approval. Co-leader Andras Schiffer said he was aware of Europe’s security challenges and that the deployment of the army may be necessary to overcome these challenges, therefore his party is ready for further talks on amending the constitution. He said he did not understand why declaring a state of preventive defence or a state of emergency was not sufficient to manage terrorist threats. Schiffer said it was also unclear when exactly the threat of terrorism is considered high.