Hungary Table of Contents
To keep pace with the changes that had taken place in Hungary since Kadar became first secretary of the HSWP in 1956, the regime changed every chapter of the Constitution in 1972. According to Hungarian political scientist Istvan Kovacs, the 1972 amendments "brought into harmony the wording of the Constitution and the socialist transformation of the country between 1949 and 1972." Thus, the Constitution describes the achievements of the Kadar regime. It also provides a constitutional basis for the regime's efforts to gain the allegiance of all Hungarians by replacing the term workers, the only group that the 1949 Constitution entitled to full civil rights, with the term citizens. The changes in 1972 signaled a break with Hungary's Stalinist past and the beginning of a new, more benevolent phase in regimesociety relations.
The Constitution, as amended in 1972, plays several important roles in Hungarian political life. Most important, the Constitution provides justifications for the emergence and development of the regime itself, as well as for the political forces that shaped its character. The Preamble refers to the Marxist-Leninist regime as the product of more than 1,000 years of Hungarian history, thereby linking it with Hungarian tradition. It also draws on the heritage of the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, thus attempting to create a socialist state tradition in Hungary and link itself to that tradition (see Political and Economic Life, 1905-19 , ch. 1).
In justifying the regime, the Constitution attempts to establish the legitimacy of the attempts to political system. The Constitution defines the Hungarian People's Republic as a socialist state in which all power belongs to the working people. It labels the Patriotic People's Front (PPF) as a movement uniting all social groups for the resolution of political, economic, and cultural problems. Chapter I, Article 15, establishes the orientation of Hungary's foreign policy by stating that the country forms part of the world socialist system and seeks to develop its friendship with other socialist states. Finally, Chapter IX of the Constitution defines visual symbols for the Hungarian People's Republic by describing the coat of arms and the flag of the state and by locating the country's capital in Budapest.
In establishing the country's political system, the Constitution fixes the HSWP as the leading force in society. Although the Constitution does not formally proscribe other political parties, neither does it provide for their existence. On November 10, 1988, however, the Council of Ministers took the first in a series of steps required to legalize the existence of other parties when it approved draft laws on the rights of assembly and association. The National Assembly approved these new laws on January 11, 1989. According to the new laws, county courts were to register these associations and could not refuse to register them if they met the law's requirements. Thus, private individuals, legal entities, and unofficial groups could set up political parties if their programs observed the law. A separate statute was to deal with matters such as registration, supervision, and dissolution of the parties. A new constitution, which was to be ready for ratification in 1990, would determine the role and status of political parties other than the HSWP in society. Taking advantage of this change in the political atmosphere, other political parties, which had been disbanded in the late 1940s, began to reemerge in the late 1980s. For example, the Independent Smallholders' Party announced it would resume its activities. The Social Democratic Party and the National Peasant Party also began to reorganize (see Coalition Government and Communist Takeover , ch. 1).
Having provided several kinds of justifications for the regime's existence, the Constitution proceeds to establish the institutions of government. The Constitution delineates the powers of the National Assembly, the Presidential Council, the Council of Ministers, and the local councils. The Constitution establishes a judicial system made up of the Supreme Court and a series of lower courts. The Constitution requires the National Assembly to elect a prosecutor general, who in turn appoints prosecutors at the local levels.
Like constitutions in the West, the Hungarian Constitution describes civic and political rights. These rights include the guarantees of equality before the law and the personal freedom and inviolability of the citizenry; liberty of conscience and freedom of worship; freedom of speech, press, and assembly; right of association; and privacy of correspondence and the home. In line with the Marxist-Leninist ideology of the regime, the Constitution also guarantees certain social and economic rights, including the right to leisure time; the right to financial support for old age, disease, and disability; and the right to education.
The Constitution, however, limits citizens' exercise of their political rights. According to Chapter VII, Article 64, the Constitution guarantees the rights of speech, press, and assembly "in a manner conforming to the interests of socialism and the people." This clause allows the government to ban any activities it considers detrimental to its interests. Equally important, Chapter VII, Article 69, states that the "fundamental duty" of the citizenry is to "protect the property of the people, to consolidate social ownership, to increase the economic strength of the Hungarian People's Republic . . . to consolidate the order of society." Although in 1988 the United States Department of State found that Hungarians enjoyed relatively more liberties than their counterparts in other countries of Eastern Europe, duties to the state continued to take precedence over rights contained in the Constitution. The regime did not treat as inalienable the rights held by the people.
Furthermore, socioeconomic rights contained in the Constitution have acted not only as an economic safety net but also as a source of oppression for the people. For example, the right to work not only guaranteed employment but also allowed the regime to enforce compulsory employment for all adult males and all single females because the regime could best exercise power over the populace while they were at work. The right to leisure time allowed the regime to control the forms of entertainment that citizens could enjoy. And the right to primary and secondary education has meant little more than the obligation to listen to regime-sponsored efforts at political indoctrination.
Data as of September 1989
Hungary Table of Contents