It has been a busy first half-year for Hungary. In January that country rather bumblingly stained its first-ever assumption of the European Presidency with a controversial new media law. Now, since Easter, it has a new constitution. But is it any good? One Hungarian, the writer Péter Zilahy, declares in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that it surely heralds “magical times” – but not in any positive sense (cue the tweet!):
Ungarns neue Verfassung: Vom Leben in magischen Zeiten (von Péter Zilahy) http://www.faz.net/-01TNXK
Here’s his lede:
A thousand years and no wiser: The new “basic law” of the Hungarians bases itself on Christianity and the Holy Crown. Minister-President Orbán nonetheless speaks of Europe’s most modern constitution. A Budapest farce.
The whole reason for this new constitution was the electoral landslide enjoyed last year by Victor Orbán’s right-wing FIDESZ party, brought about by popular disgust with the moral laxity and economic incompetence displayed by the Socialist government in power since 2002 – back when the Socialists in turn electorally deposed an Orbán government! Actually, that Socialist-led regime even managed to get itself re-elected in 2006, but only through what was revealed after-the-fact as basically a campaign of lies.
In any event, in 2010 FIDESZ was back and with a 2/3 control of the Hungarian parliament that enabled it even to amend the constitution, up to then a legal hodge-podge in fact consisting largely of the Communist-era’s basic law. Now the Hungarians have a new one, with strong rhetorical as well as practical emphasis on Christianity and the family.
Except that for many – even most – post-Communist Hungarians outright Christianity holds little appeal. This certainly includes Zilahy, and that provides the motivation behind his anti-constitution polemic here. “Now then, it can’t do any harm to have God on our side, especially considering we are a secular nation and a secular state,” he snidely observes, and also delves deeper behind that contradiction first mentioned in his lede between a new basic law that is supposed to be so forward-looking yet which invokes Christianity and especially the Holy Crown of Hungary’s first Christian king, St. Stephen I (Szent István; reigned 1000 – 1038 AD).
Of course, if you’re going to invoke St. Stephen, you probably also will prefer to talk about the lands in his kingdom, Zilahy notes, which unfortunately include much more than merely those contained within the post-World War I Hungarian state – and so the arguments with the neighbors start up once again! Oh well, if that’s going to lead to a fight, at least we have Olympic-champion fencer Pal Schmitt (Hungary’s current president) on our side – shades of Lancelot and King Arthur!
(You want further “magical times”? Apparently the “National Creed” which is the preamble to that new constitution declares that the entire 46+ years between the Nazi occupation of Hungary (March 1944) and the first post-Communist elections (May 1990) as legally non-existent! Zihaly doesn’t get around to bringing this up here.)