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The new constitution recently passed by the Hungarian parliament is matter of concern about some of its articles, which seem to put at risk even fundamental human rights and smooth the way for different kinds of discrimination.
On April 25th President Pal Schimtt signed the new constitutional text presented by the parliament. The new constitution was passed in parliament without the participation of opposition parties, voted only by Fidesz, the right-wing party that has the parliamentary majority and owns the two thirds of the seats, and thus can proceed independently.
The most criticized articles regard abortion, homosexuals’ rights, freedom of religion, freedom of information and expression, and division of powers.
Article 2 is one of the most controversial, it states “The life of a fetus will be protected from conception.” The concern of organizations as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International is that this will provide the basis to restrict the access to abortion or even to ban it completely. Pro-abortion groups are worried about the potential danger of a tougher and stricter abortion law and a restriction of women’s rights.
Another crucial point is about the ban on gay marriage, and the exclusion of sexual orientation from the protected grounds of discrimination. The new constitution recalls the idea of the Christian traditional family and traditional marriage, defined as a union of a man and a woman. Disappointment on this question has been expressed by Amnesty International, and homosexual right’s groups are very critical.
Also freedom of information and expression seem to be undermined. In fact, the rights of being informed about the public interest’s acts and to freely express the personal opinion have been restricted, together with the independence of media. This will be controlled by the National Media and Infocommunication Authority (NMHH), that has strong sanctioning powers and is under the majority party’s control.
Also the powers and the autonomy of authorities and of independent bodies as the Constitutional Court, the regular courts and the ombudsmen, would be rather weakened, scaling down the whole system of checks and balances.
There is another point which has a marked ideological nationalistic connotation. It regards the reference to a broadened Hungarian nation. This model of new Hungary would include also the Hungarians whom don’t reside on the national territory – for example the Hungarian minority groups that live in Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia – that are being considered as member of the nation with the right of participate in the elections. This could appear an actual definition of ethnic nation instead of political, which could even create frictions with the neighboring countries.
The new constitutional document strongly reflects only a one-sided vision of the nation. All the symbols and the elements recalled are ideologically and politically clear expression of the right-wing part. The lack of neutrality and of warranty of normal political balance, competition and change among the parts sounds somewhat anomalous for a modern democratic country.
In a country as Hungary marked by a long and hard history made of totalitarianism, whether black or red, this removal from democratic values rouses worry and the criticism even of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. Meanwhile, Europe looks with concerns at this situation as Hungary waits for 2012 when the new constitution will come into force.