Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) is a human rights watch-dog NGO established in 1994. The HCLU received an invitation to take part in the work of the ad-hoc Parliamentarian Committee on Constitution Drafting. HCLU declined the invitation. The reasons why HCLU made this decision reflects our opinion on the draft of the new Constitution.
In October of 2010 HCLU claimed on its website that, as far we knew, the adoption process for the new Constitution failed to guarantee a dignified process. In January, 2011 we can state that the process of adoption does not even fulfill the most elementary requirements of the legislative process.
The ad-hoc Parliamentarian Committee submitted its draft of the new Constitution on December 20th, 2010. Even though one could follow the work of this committee on its website, some major episodes of the drafting of the constitution remain unknown. During the summer the Prime Minister, in parallel with the Parliamentarian Committee, set up a separate committee of public figures to outline the basic principles of the new Constitution. The relationship between the two committees is obscure and no information was revealed about the actual work of the committee formed by the Prime Minister. As a result, uncertainty has grown within the decision-making process which does hampers transparency.
Drafting a new constitution is a time-consuming process. However, in the current process timeframes seem to be more important than conducting an open-ended discussion on fundamental rights. According to our recent knowledge, Hungary will have a new Constitution by April 25th, 2011 which will enter into force January 1st, 2012. It is unclear how the Government will fulfill its own requirement of public involvement: according to which a proposal of an act shall be disclosed providing sufficient time adequate to its aim to assess the merits of the proposal and formulate opinions.
At the beginning each of the parliamentarian parties represented themselves in the ad-hoc committee. By the time the committee submitted its concept, only the governing parties took part in the work. The biggest opposition party, the Hungarian Socialist Party, declared that it also will not participate in the parliamentarian debate. HCLU declined to take part in the process of adoption because it was not clear what the process will be like and how different opinions will be weighed. Thus, the conciliation process seems mere formality, and the actual content of the new Constitution predetermined.
Even though the Constitution is not something unchangeable, substantial and cogent arguments are required to demonstrate the necessity for a new Constitution. In our opinion the Government has not fulfilled this obligation.