With President János Áder proposing that Parliament re-elect Viktor Orbán, leader of the Fidesz party, as Prime Minister, the new, four-year parliamentary cycle formally began on Tuesday. Hungary’s 199 lawmakers took their oaths and then elected officials, among them a former skinhead as one of the five deputy speakers.
In the new – reduced-size – Parliament Fidesz has 117 MPs, its Christian Democrat ally 16, the opposition Socialists 29, radical nationalist Jobbik 23 and green LMP five. Together-PM and the Democratic Coalition have four MPs each and the Liberal Party one, all of them sitting as independents. In addition 13 spokespersons without voting rights will represent national minorities.
The result of the 6 April general election must make everyone aware that the Hungarian nation considers the “lengthy process of regime change as completed”, Áder said in his opening statement.
László Kövér was re-elected as Speaker in a secret vote with 171 votes in support, 19 against and three abstentions. This newly formed Parliament is the “first that represents the entire nation”, Kövér said in his address, referring to ethnic Hungarians living beyond the borders who voted for the first time in a general election.
Bald? No problem
Then it came to the election of deputy speakers. One of the unwritten laws of Hungarian legislation is that parties support each other’s nominees for the position and four of the five were elected with practically unanimous support. Jobbik’s Tamás Sneider, however, only received 150 votes in favour.
Leftist parties objected to Sneider’s nomination in advance, citing his “fascistic” past, which led to lengthy debates before the inaugural session. Sneider – known as Roy at the time – was the leader of an Eger-based skinhead group in the early 1990s.
“At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s the so-called skinhead movement was the group of national radicals,” he told the pro-Jobbik Barikád magazine last summer. “Both physically and mentally, the Eger group was one of the leaders of this movement.”
Now the deputy leader of the radical party, Sneider was charged by police in 1992 for beating a person during a clash between local Roma and skinheads. Though the ruling in the case is not available, it seems somewhat odd that Jobbik would also nominate him as chairman of the social, youth and family affairs committee.
So, what’s your programme?
Green party LMP submitted a proposal to change the Constitution so that alongside the election of the prime minister, it is obligatory for a debate to be held on the government’s programme at the founding session of Parliament. András Schiffer, the party’s parliamentary group leader, told journalists that it was “more than appalling” that Fidesz and its Christian Democrat ruling ally had not promulgated its programme.
Other leftist lawmakers supplemented the text of their oaths. MPs of Democratic Coalition said: “I undertake to do everything to establish a new republic. I will use all my strength to ensure that the Hungarian Republic has a new Constitution via a referendum.”
MPs of the E-PM party also added to their oaths. Timea Szabó, the party’s co-leader, said they promised to “restore constitutionality and respect for human rights, take Hungary back to the community of countries with European values and create social peace, solidarity and the conditions for growth”.
Fewer MPs, fewer committees
In the new committee structure, Parliament has 15 committees, rather than 20 before, including a legislative committee, an immunity committee and a business promotion committee, the latter set up at the opposition’s initiative.
The other committees are to cover the areas of justice, including constitutional and human rights issues; budget; foreign affairs; EU affairs; defence and law enforcement; national security; national cohesion; national economy; agriculture; culture, including education and sport; sustainable development; as well as welfare, including health, social and family issues.
In the new structure, proposals will be discussed in the respective committees and then forwarded to the legislative committee, which will finalise the drafts and submit them to the assembly to vote on. This replaces an earlier system of draft details being discussed in plenary sessions.