Hungary Insight

No rest for the wicked, or how Fidesz is exploiting the pandemic

On the same day as the Hungarian Parliament approved of the re-introduction of the state of emergency to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fidesz government also proposed significant amendments to Hungary’s constitution, the “Fundamental Law”, the Civil Code, the Child Protection Act and to the electoral law.  

Within a day of Prime Minister Orbán announcing a strict curfew as part of its pandemic response, and while the service industry was left in the dark regarding whether they could open the following day, the Fidesz government was indeed busy proposing its package of constitutional amendments and bill proposals.

The aim? Same-sex couples raising children, trans people, and school curricula in regards to gender…

Fidesz moves to ban adoption by same-sex couples…

With these amendments accepted, the constitution will state that “Hungary protects children’s right to their identity in line with their birth sex, and their right to education according to our country’s constitutional identity and system of values based on Christian culture”, adding that “the mother is female, the father is male”.

Based on that same amendment, non-married Hungarian individuals will also no longer be able to adopt children (only if specifically granted permission personally by Minister for Family Policy Katalin Novák). 

This would in effect ban adoption by same-sex couples since same-sex marriage is illegal in Hungary,

The draft legislation would further facilitate the government’s channelling of public funds into private hands, as it states that foundations managing public assets can only be investigated and changed in case the two-thirds of the parliamentary majority agrees.

The proposed constitutional amendment affects several foundations that were given public wealth in the past years, led by government-friendly figures, such as Mathias Corvinus Collegium, which received various public properties and shares from the government, notably 10 per cent shares of MOL and Richter, adding up to more than a billion euros.

The official reason for the amendment is that it ensures the independence of foundations in the long-run, regardless of regime change. 

But the long day of November 10 did not end just yet.

The very same evening – the last night on which restaurants could operate – Justice Minister Judit Varga and Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás were spotted in the famous Déryné Bistro in the Castle (I.) District. After allegedly having had more than a few cocktails, they left the place around 11 pm – just in time for the midnight curfew. 

… and further change the electoral system

Just in time for the curfew, and to submit yet another proposal at 11:59 pm: Judit Varga submitted an amendment regarding electoral laws. The seemingly highly technical modification includes a paragraph regarding the nomination of party lists, which essentially makes the coordinated nomination of candidates impossible for the opposition.

According to Political Capital Research and Consulting Institute, it is uncertain why this modification was so important for Fidesz, as it seemingly gives the opposition the final push for running candidates under a common list (instead of merely coordinated lists). But it remains unclear whether this amendment is only the start of making more extensive changes to the electoral system. 

The bottom line is that the Government has proposed these bills (which, knowing that Fidesz has a two-third majority in Parliament, will be ultimately accepted) on the very same day when the COVID-19 pandemic emergency state has taken effect.

While the domestic infection rate is rapidly rising and at least 100 people die daily from COVID and the number of COVID patients exceeds the capacity of hospitals, what does the Hungarian government do? It’s saving its own ass. It is continuing to play power games instead of having a go at governing a country in deep crisis. 

The events of the past few days give good indiciation of the direction in which Fidesz’s election strategy for 2022 is headed – they are wasting no time to cement their power. And while ultimately facing a largely unequal playing field, it’s time for the opposition to step up its game, too. 

By Zsofi Borsi

A Budapest-born politics and economics graduate of Durham University, UK, Zsofi Borsi wrote her BA thesis on conspiracy theories present in Hungarian online political discourse. She recently finished her graduate studies at Central European University in Budapest and Vienna and is currently working as a policy analyst.

Find more of her articles here.

Coordinated by Ábel Bede, Kafkadesk's Budapest office is made up of a growing team of freelance journalists, editors and fact-checkers passionate about Hungarian affairs and dedicated to bringing you all the latest news, events and insights from Hungary.

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