The restoration of liberal democracy

I believe the current political system to be illiberal, where many international and universal norms are violated. Since 2010 a select group of people have monopolized all means of power in an unconstitutional manner through legal, but illegitimate measures.

Attila Tibor Nagy (Centre for Fair Political Analysis) writes of his hope that I was mistaken when I said that, after being freed from the shackles of the two-thirds majority, I propose interruption of succession as a solution, in case national reconciliation failed. Unfortunately, I was not mistaken when I said this because, after four years, I came to realize it is necessary to discuss it.

About the importance of candid speech

I don't believe that Viktor Orbán should be beaten outside of elections and I do believe that the current government can be replaced in 2018 with a strong parliamentary majority in which my own party, Együtt, could play a key role. I believe that a broad and diverse alliance needs to be formed with voters in order to break the centralized field of power in politics.

I only believe what I said because I consider the current political system in Hungary to be illiberal, where many international and universal norms are violated. Since 2010 a select group of people have monopolized all means of power in an unconstitutional manner through legal, but illegitimate measures.

I find that it is important to talk about this issue, as the volume of shouting "Orbán, get out" will not have a decisive role in the opposition's effort to replace the current Prime Minister. It is necessary to talk about the future that comes after the regime change. A new program must be developed to solve the social, constitutional and economic questions of the protracted Hungarian crisis.

Challengers should only prepare and strive for victory, and can only win legitimacy, during the parliamentary elections of 2018 if they have a clear plan to mitigate and solve the social, constitutional and economic crisis. While at every turn, the magicians of Fidesz would like us to believe that politics is nothing but a cynical, limitless and self-serving fight for power, I believe that we can only solve our problems through open discourse, mutuality, and respect for each other.

Viktor Orbán's responsibility

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I do not think that the Prime Minister is responsible for all of our troubles, as he inherited many problems from the previous governments. His attempt was legal but without proper authorization from his voters, and he did not solve the problems that he should have and in the way that he should have.

Viktor Orbán misled a lot of Hungarians. In 2010, he was authorized to remedy the crisis of the previous years and decades. Instead of doing so, he chose to speed even faster toward a dead-end.

The fragmentation of our society continues, corruption is at an all-time high and the justice system – with minor exceptions – is controlled by Orbán's inner circle. Meaningful dialogue is non-existent. NGOs and dissidents are stigmatized as enemies by Viktor Orbán and, at the same time, by turning towards the East, he isolates us from our historic allies.

Viktor Orbán is responsible for the fact that the current state of affairs in Hungary can be considered unconsonstitutional. Starting with the single-party and ideologically-driven new constitution, followed by electoral reforms which favour single-party majorities, enshrining policy decisions in laws requiring a two-thirds majority to be overturned, diminishing of the authority of the Constitutional Court and the Fiscal Council and through marginalizing the institutions responsible for the checks and balances of the system.

The openly advertised experiment with the illiberal model is not authorized by the majority of the voters. The current constitutional majority, with increasingly limited public support, has tied the hands of all future Hungarian governments that could try to govern within the current constitutional framework with less than a two-thirds majority. The laws requiring a two-thirds parliamentary majority reach beyond the questions of fundamental rights and institutional structures. A new government would be unable to realize its social policies, such as abolishing the flat tax, and Péter Polt among many others would still be loyal to Viktor Orbán and not the country.

Arguments against the "cardinal laws"

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It is now even easier to achieve a two-thirds majority within the framework of the new electoral system. However, it is not equally easy for the opposition and the incumbent governing parties. In the case of a possible collapse of Fidesz's voter base by 2018, a non-radical opposition party, with a suitable leader and a good program, can easily achieve a two-thirds majority. However, the party led by Viktor Orbán can still gain a more favorable position through the redrawing of constituencies and the government's advertising media dominance, among other strategies.

Thus, the present opposition can count on a strong parliamentary majority if it wins, but it has to fight for this more in the current electoral system, and it is still less likely to achieve a two-thirds majority. The constituencies are designed in a way that even with more votes, the victorious non-radical challenger would receive less mandates than the governing party did in 2014. That is how Viktor Orbán wants to turn Hungary's future into a prisoner of his National Co-operation System ("NER").

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During a future revision of the constitution, it would be well-advised to delete the concept of two-thirds majority laws from the Hungarian legal system. We need a strong, almost immovable new constitution which, along with a more proportional electoral system, requires a simple, 50% majority legislation. The two-thirds majority laws failed to bring us stability or consensus.

Instead of two-thirds majority, all subsequent political consensuses would be enforced by a calmer and more peaceful parliamentary representation of national interests by all political parties.

About the end of the cold civil war

In case of an election defeat, it would also be in the interest of Fidesz to abolish two-thirds majority in governance. Viktor Orbán was the one to force everyone into the system of overconstitutionalizing (as formulated by Péter Tölgyessy) each other. According to my proposal, the non-radical opposition has to clearly state that in case of its electoral victory, it would do everything in its power to solve the basic legal situation that currently raises roadblocks to governance, through national consensus.

But this can only be achieved if the cold civil war ends and all parties accept each other's legitimacy.

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The best solution would obviously be a change on the part of Viktor Orbán prior to 2018, when he would face the parliamentary elections with an adapted electoral system and fewer cardinal laws. However, it will not happen because he cannot adapt or change.

After the victory of the opposition

After the election victory, the opposition has to attempt to eliminate all personal and policy shackles that cripple the executive power within the new parliament. A consensus must be reached in this matter because this is the only way to put an end to all the national difficulties that have escalated in seriousness in the past two and a half decades.

But even during a possible successful consensus-building experiment, a new republic has to be formed, thus symbolically breaking with the experiments of the past decades, but including all positive aspects of constitutional development since 1989.

It is necessary to curtail the authority of the executive power because it would be tragic if the members of the new, non-radical government were to fall in love with their enhanced, illiberal authority. It would be easy then to refer to the "need for the same authority that Viktor Orbán had in order to clean up the mess", but this is not the right way, and it would further destroy the remnants of our constitutional democracy. The system of NER is not bad just because we are not the ones to govern it.

Without parliamentary compromise, in order to commence government duties in line with the electoral mandate, the only remaining solution is the suspension of legal continuity and deviation from the rules that limit the executive power. It is not necessary to override everything. No new constitution should be written. Only the laws and personal relationships that obstruct governing should be eliminated.

About interrupting succession

In recent years, our country's bilateral international partners, with the exception of the Nordic countries and the United States, watched idly the destruction of our constitutional democracy. Today, our country would not be admitted into the European Union as it would not meet the criteria regarding the state of the rule of law. Our multilateral partners have very few legal means for intervention. The European Union itself that counts us among its member states could not force Viktor Orbán into correcting his ways, claiming a lack of tools, other, more serious problems, and partly due to political cowardice. As a person committed to our EU membership, and as a citizen hoping for a more federal Union, I have to admit, that this realization was the most painful to me in the past five years.

These same, previously idle international partners have to accept the intention of a socially well-supported democratic challenger who wants to restore a constitutional, liberal democracy after being elected. However, in order to do so, the leader might need to interrupt legal continuity for a brief period of time, and thus bring about a new constitutional beginning.

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The Fourth Republic cannot belong to only one side

However, I believe that the opposition that shall be victorious in 2018, should not write a new constitution. As opposed to many leftist intellectuals, I believe that we cannot accept a new constitution that is only acceptable to the current opposition, as a challenge to Viktor Orbán's own constitution.

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The two-thirds majority laws will be unnecessary in the Fourth Republic, as all political parties should learn from the sins of the cold civil war that has lasted for the last two decades.

There should be disarmament. We need to work together but compete at the same time.

Instead of constitutional rules as the preventive force in the continuous remodeling of the currently two-thirds cases, self-control of the renewed political elite, and a much stronger external, civilian and institutional power control should be employed.

This goal seems naïve today. But I strongly believe that the lack of self-control in the actors of the political subsystem and the deliberate weakening of the institutions of civil society were the factors that led to the crisis of today.

Without the foundation of the Fourth Republic in Hungary, there can be no prosperity, peace, and free competition based social market economy. But this new republic cannot belong to only half, one-third, one-fourth of the country.

The constitutional crisis is not the only crisis in Hungary today. The social and economic crisis is equally important. Együtt will provide clear answers to these in due course. As a part of this, we are doing everything in our power to unveil the corruption of the circle surrounding Orbán, and to prove that certain key members of the justice system do not serve justice.

Yet, we have every reason to hope that we can have better, more peaceful lives even in our lifetimes, as we cannot be the first generation after 150 years whose children live under worse conditions that their parents did. In order to achieve this, we have to terminate institutionalized theft, lack of dialogue, challenges to each other's right to exist, and eliminate all endeavors to destroy the other side. For this, a new Fidesz and a new opposition are both necessary. Együtt will do its part in the latter.

Viktor Szigetvári

The author is the chairman of Együtt (Together)