Country Listing

Hungary Table of Contents


Chapter 4. Government and Politics


A small-town judge, 1916

THE POLITICAL SYSTEM of the Hungarian People's Republic, like others in Eastern Europe, drew heavily upon a model first established in the Soviet Union. The leading political institution in the state was the ruling communist party, in this case the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party. This monolithic, centralized party determined the basic economic, political, and social policies for the country as a whole, and the government implemented the party's decisions.

The Constitution, ratified in 1949 and amended considerably in 1972, grants political and economic rights to the people, prescribes civic duties, and establishes the institutions of government. According to the Constitution, the National Assembly (the parliament) holds supreme authority in the state. In fact, the Presidential Council, a standing body of the National Assembly that combines legislative and executive functions, assumes most of the duties of the National Assembly and those of a chief of state. The National Assembly, however, does provide a vehicle for expanded political participation. A 1983 amendment to the Constitution mandated multicandidate elections for most seats in the National Assembly. The Council of Ministers--the executive arm of the government--had primary responsibility for the economy. Within the party, the rank-and-file members had virtually no influence over decision making. The permanent party bureaucracy, headed by the Politburo and administered by the Secretariat, exercised supreme power within the party. These organs made policy for the party, enforced discipline, and regulated admissions. Middle-level organs managed policy on the county and district levels. Basic Organizations--on the lowest rung of the party hierarchy--carried out party activities in economic enterprises. The Patriotic People's Front served under the auspices of the party; this mass organization involved the citizenry in carrying out decisions made by the party. The mass media also served as instruments to generate popular support for the party's policies.

In May 1988, Karoly Grosz succeeded Janos Kadar as general secretary of the party. Kadar had been leader of the party since the Soviet invasion of 1956. Mounting economic problems and general dissatisfaction with the pace of political reform led to the ouster of Kadar at the party's Third Party Conference.

Hungary's foreign policy positions generally coincided with those of the Soviet Union. Since 1986 these countries have supported each other's reform efforts. Nevertheless, Hungary displeased the Soviet Union with its efforts to establish an independent role for small- and medium-sized states in international affairs and to obtain Western economic assistance to help modernize its economy. Discord also emerged between Hungary and Romania--ostensibly another fraternal ally--over the latter's oppression of its Hungarian minority.

Data as of September 1989