Hungary Table of Contents
National Parliament building
Courtesy Gustav Forster
The Constitution designates the National Assembly as the supreme organ of state power. In reality the parliament played a limited role in the government. Until 1989, the 352-member unicameral National Assembly met only three or four times a year in sessions that lasted no longer than four days each. In addition to electing the membership of state and government bodies nominally subordinate to it, the National Assembly also enacted laws and approved the five-year economic plans. However, from 1980 through 1985 the National Assembly passed only eighteen bills, an insignificant number compared with those passed by the Presidential Council and the Council of Ministers. In the late 1980s, party leaders openly acknowledged that these two bodies made all the important decisions and that the National Assembly was merely a rubber stamp.
Delegates to the National Assembly did play several important roles. They contributed to the plenary discussions of the parliament, acted as members of the county groups, served their constituencies, and participated in the parliament's standing committees. Plenary sessions chiefly concerned local problems and were an attempt to use the parliament's publicity to pressure authorities on the distribution of funds. Delegates elected from each county formed county groups to promote the interests of their region. Because most counties had an urban-rural mix, formation of a common policy outlook was difficult. However, inasmuch as Hungary had more agricultural regions than industrial regions, agriculture enjoyed predominance. As servants of their constituencies, delegates reported on their activities in the National Assembly and attempted to resolve citizens' complaints against the bureaucracy.
The most important duties of the delegates concerned their work on the standing committees of the National Assembly. The National Assembly elected in 1985, in addition to legal, administrative, and judicial committees, had standing committees for construction and transport, culture, industry, trade, foreign affairs, agriculture, social and health affairs, infrastructural development and environmental protection, and planning and budgeting. During the 1980-85 convocation of the National Assembly, 221 out of the 352 delegates served on the standing committees, which met about 50 times a year. The committees discussed draft laws submitted by the Council of Ministers, usually proposing only small changes in the text. The committees did, however, have the power to reject the drafts at this stage. In the 1980s, the committees also actively supervised the implementation of laws. A parliamentary presidency, which consisted of the chairman and two deputy chairmen aided by a small bureau, coordinated the work of the committees.
Data as of September 1989