PRESENT - The contemporary Hungarian parliament and parliamentarianism

1. The Fundamental Law and Parliament
Hungary has been a state in the form of a republic and a parliamentary republic by form of government since 1989. The legislative power is exercised by a unicameral Parliament, whose members are elected for four years.

The competence and executive power of the Parliament of the Hungary are defined by the The Fundamental Law of Hungary (25 April 2011). The Fundamental Law came into force on 1 January 2012. 

The Parliament is the supreme body of popular representation in Hungary.

2. The National Assembly

     
The number of legislators 199  
The term of office 4 years  
Election system mixed system  
Chambers unicameral  
The number of constituencies 106  
Passive electoral qualification Any citizen older than 18 years of age  




 

 

Under the universal and equal suffrage the 199 MPs are elected directly by secret ballot. The system is a mixed and one-round election system. Any person entitled to vote in the elections is also eligible to run for a seat in the Parliament. A person serving imprisonment under an absolute sentence or subject to forced medical treatment in an institute as decreed in criminal proceedings shall not be eligible to stand as candidate in any election of Members of Parliament (Act CCIII of 2011 on Election of Members of Parliament).

According to the new election law each constituent has two votes, one for an individual candidate and one for a party list or - in case of a constituent registered in an ethnical electoral roll - for an ethnical minority list. 106 MPs will be elected in constituencies, 93 from national (party or ethnical) lists. Hungarian citizens having no permanent residence in the territory of Hungary have the right to vote for a party list.

The candidate of an individual constituency won the most votes is declared to be elected. 93 seats are allotted to political parties and ethnic minorities on a full proportional basis according to "scrap” votes. Parties polling less than 5% of the popular vote do not gain a parliamentary seat through this system. Ethnic minorities, which were not able to gain any mandates during the elections, will be represented by an ethnical advocate in the Parliament.

Vacancies arising between general elections are filled through by elections (in single member constituencies), while vacancies of national list seats are filled by the party concerned from among the candidates figuring on its original list.

Voting is not compulsory.

3. Functions of the Parliament
The two most important tasks of the Parliament are legislation and the supervision over the work of the Government. The duties pertaining to these tasks are stipulated, in the first place, by the Fundamental Law. The most important responsibilities are as follows:
• the enactment and amendment of the Fundamental Law of Hungary,
• the adoption of laws,
• the adoption of the state budget and the monitoring of its implementation,
• the election of the prime minister and the decision on any matter of confidence related to the government,
• the election of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the members of the Constitutional Court, the President of the Curia,    the Supreme Prosecutor, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his or her deputies, and the President of the State Audit Office,
• the dissolution any representative body which operates in violation of the Fundamental Law,
• the decision on a declaration of war and conclusion of peace,
• the decision on any special legal order and participation in military operations,
• the granting pardons,
• the exercising other responsibilities and competences defined by the Fundamental Law and other laws.

Legislation
The Parliament is the sole institution with constitutive power; it adopts and amends the Fundamental Law of Hungary. Both procedures need a two-third majority.

The Parliament passes legislation
•  regarding key social institutions, the organisation and function of the state and the authority of public agencies;
•  regarding economic order, the fundamental rules of the economy and its institutions;
•  regarding the fundamental rights and duties of citizens; conditions and limits of those and their enforcement

Supervision
Besides legislation, the other important and increasingly significant task of the National Assembly is to monitor the activities of the Government and the state administration that is controlled by Government. That function focuses on whether the legislators’ intentions are implemented and whether the Government operates in accordance with the laws.
Parliamentary supervision of the Government may be exercised by the plenary, by the committees and by individual MPs. Such supervision may also be executed through specialized agencies operating under parliamentary supervision, such as the State Audit Office or the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights.

Important means of supervision are the debate over, and the adoption of reports of the Government, as well as parliamentary political debates, which may be initiated either by the Government or by one-fifth of the MPs.

Discussions by committees of various reports, information and briefing materials are an important area of parliamentary supervision. The committees hear the minister-elects before they are appointed, and following that, ministers report to the relevant parliamentary committee on the work his/her ministry has completed annually. On specified subjects, ministers and heads of central agencies of public administration may also be heard at the initiative of two-fifths of committee members.

The traditional means of parliamentary supervision that individual MPs may exercise at plenary sittings are interpellations, questions and questions that require a prompt answer.

The two supervisory agencies of the National Assembly are the State Audit Office and the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. The State Audit Office is the Parliament’s own financial and economic supervisory agency and is independent of the Government. The State Audit Office prepares an expert opinion on the draft text of the Budget Act, monitors the implementation of the Budget Act, as well as the spending of public money and the management of state assets in general. The competence of the State Audit Office covers all economic activities where public money is involved, and it may carry out inspections on all levels of state administration. The State Audit Office also controls the management of national assets. It examines the criteria of lawfulness, practicality and efficiency. The President of the State Audit Office reports to Parliament on his or her work annually. The detailed rules for the organisation and operation of the State Audit Office are defined in the Act LXVI of 2011 on the State Audit Office.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights (ombudsman) protect the rights of citizens and supervises the agencies of public administration. The Commissioner acts at the request of any person. He or she has two deputies, one of them defends the interests of the next generations the other deputy commissioner defends the rights of the nationalities living in Hungary. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his or her deputies are not allowed to be a member of any political party or to engage in any political activity. They are elected for six years by a two-thirds vote of the MPs. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights has to present to Parliament an annual report on his or her activities. The detailed rules for the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his or her deputies are determined by the Act CXI of 2011 on the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. The Commissioner gives his opinion about the draft bills which are relevant to his or her tasks and competence. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights can initiates the supervision of acts at the Constitutional Court.

The President of the State Audit Office and the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights can make recommendations in their detailed accounts or reports of inquiry and have on some instances indeed recommended that Parliament should enact certain laws or amend various other ones. They make an annual report of their activities and regularly send their reports of their various inquiries. They are invited to the plenary sessions and committee meetings and can attend with the right of consultation.


In addition to the enactment of laws and the monitoring of the government, the Parliament has functions as follows:
• representative function – the Parliament is the supreme body of state power and popular representation in the Republic of Hungary. It exercises its rights based on the sovereignty of the people. The Parliament assures a democratic political representation via the general suffrage by secret ballot.
• function of appointment – public dignitaries and heads of various central institutions of governance, such as the President of the Republic, the President of the Curia, the President and the members of the Constitutional Court, the president and deputy president of the State Audit Office, the Commissioner of Fundamental Rights and his or her deputies and the Supreme Prosecutor are elected by the Parliament
• legitimating function – the democratic function of the Parliament is justified by the majority decisions of the legislative procedure.
• function of guaranteeing political openness – the openness of the Parliament guaranties that citizens are informed of matters of public interest. The sittings of the parliament are public but the parliament may decide with a two-thirds majority of the votes of the MPs to hold any session in camera at the request of the Government or any MP.  Verbatim minutes of the plenary and the open committee sittings are prepared and placed on the homepage of the Parliament.

4. The relationship between the Parliament and the Government
The elementary rules of the relationship between the Parliament and Government are determined in the Fundamental Law of Hungary and in the Standing Orders of the Parliament.

After the elections the President of the Republic commissions the candidate for prime minister of the winning party to form a government. The Parliament elects the prime minister and approves the program of the Government. The Government shall be formed by the appointment of Ministers. Government members shall swear an oath before the Parliament.

The Government is responsible to the Parliament for its operation and is required to report to the Parliament on its work. Members of the Government are responsible to the Government and to the Parliament and shall provide the Government and the Parliament with reports on their activities. The legal status, compensation and method of accountability of members of the Government and state secretaries shall be regulated by law.

The Government introduces its program of legislation to the Parliament within thirty days of the first plenary session and at the end of each term.

The Government has the right to introduce a bill.

Members of the Government may participate and speak at sittings of Parliament. Government members may be obliged by the Parliament and any parliamentary committee to attend any of their sessions.

Parliament may ask the Government for information on its position to be adopted in the decision-making process of the European Union’s institutions operating with the Government’s participation and may express its position about the draft on the agenda in the procedure. In the European Union’s decision-making process, the Government shall take Parliament’s position into consideration.

A motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister may be initiated by a written petition, which includes the nomination for a candidate for the office of prime minister, by no less than one-fifth of the Members of Parliament. A motion of no-confidence in the prime minister is considered a motion of no-confidence in the government as well. Should, on the basis of this motion, the majority of the Members of Parliament withdraw their confidence, then the candidate nominated for prime minister in the motion shall be considered to have been elected.

The Government may propose a vote of confidence via the prime minister. Parliament shall adopt a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister if a simple majority of Members of Parliament do not support the Prime Minister in the confidence vote proposed by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister may propose that the vote on a government proposal shall be regarded as a confidence vote. Parliament shall adopt a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister if it does not endorse the government proposal.

Member of the Government can be questioned by MPs relating to any fields of their duties.

5. Additional documents

The Fundamental Law of Hungary
Act XXXVI of 2012 on the National Assembly
Resolution 10/2014. (II. 24.) OGY on certain provisions of the Rules of Procedure
Act CCIII on Election of Members of Parliament
Act CXI of 2011 on the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights
Act LXVI of 2011 on the State Audit Office of Hungary