Former Opposition Leader Outlines Constitutional Crisis in Hungary

06 April 2011

On 24th March, FLJS took our constitutions programme to central Europe, to assess the ongoing post-communist constitutional developments in the region.

Professor Janos KisHosted by the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, the event was launched with a lecture by Professor Janos Kis, a leading member of the democratic opposition to the communist regime since the mid-1970s and co-founder and first chairman of the Alliance of Free Democrats, Hungary’s liberal party.

Professor Kis described the quasi-consensus on the operation of the new Constitution that existed between the branches of government and the Constitutional Court, up until the 2010 election. He proceeded to draw upon his firsthand experience at the negotiating table during the period of reform, to elucidate negotiated transitions as "a special case of momentous systemic change".

The lecture, entitled 'Constitution-Making in Two Stages', went on to address the causes of the current "constitutional crisis" in Hungary, not least the apparent paradox of the two-stage constitution-making process, which has left a Constitution that remains incomplete and contested to this day.

In a wide-ranging lecture, Professor Kis drew on constitutional developments throughout central Europe, and concluded by fielding a range of questions from the audience

A video of the lecture is now available to view in full:

Constitution-Making in Two Stages
(1 hr 35 mins)

The lecture served as the opening of a workshop on the last twenty years of constitutions and constitutionalism in central and East Europe, which considered, against the background of social and political circumstances, aspirations and expectations and achievements and disappointments.

The discussion covered contemporary issues including the rise in quasi-constitutional constraints such as those imposed by the EU accession demands of the Copenhagen criteria; the privatization of politics and attacks on constitutional courts by executives to limit judicial power; and the symbolic function of constitutions to promote social cohesion.