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Hungarian report Hungarian report
by Euro Reporter
2013-02-12 10:51:44
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Hungary government to curb powers of constitutional court

Hungary's government is set to curb the powers of the country's constitutional court, after the body thwarted plans to introduce a controversial law on electoral procedures.  According to a set of constitutional amendments proposed by the government on Monday, the court will no longer be able to refer to judgements prior to January 1, 2012 when a new constitution, called the "Basic Law", came into force.  Nor will the court be able to judge on the actual content of new amendments, only on their technical legality.

The amendments will be voted on during the parliament's latest session which opened Monday. The Basic Law replaced the previous constitution, deemed a relic of Hungary's communist era by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's governing right-wing coalition which swept into power in 2010 with a two-thirds majority.

In a rare blow for Orban, who has been accused since 2010 of dismantling institutions capable of checking his power, the court annulled last month a controversial set of electoral law reforms written into the Basic Law in a previous constitutional amendment.  Critics said several of the provisions in the electoral law were designed to tilt the approaching 2014 elections in favour of the government. These included obligatory registration for voters in advance of elections as well as restrictions on campaign advertising.


Number of murders in Hungary lowest in half-century

The number of murders dropped to a 50-year low of 113 in 2012, Prosecutor General Péter Polt said in outlining last year's crime figures. The all-time high of 310 was reached in 1994 but the number of such serious crimes has been steadily declining in the past 15 years, which is important for ordinary people’s sense of safety, he said.
Polt considers the proceedings begun last summer regarding police corruption linked to Buda entrepreneur László Vizoviczky as a considerable achievement.  The number of perpetrators dropped from 112,895 in 2011 to 100,239 in 2012, but the number of reported crimes rose from 451,371 to 472,236, implying that more crimes were committed by fewer people.  Polt noted that the number of uncovered corruption cases has risen, saying this shows that the work of the authorities to uncover crimes and the transparency of the state and the economy have improved.


Hungary’s right-wing inflames ethnic tensions

The Roma make up about 7 percent of Hungary’s 10 million people, and are overrepresented among the poor and unemployed. Discrimination is said to be widespread: for instance, according to one survey, only about one-third of Hungarians would let their child be friends with a Roma child. Although statistics are sketchy, Dezideriu Gergely, the executive director of the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre, said that "anti-Roma sentiment has been raising a lot in the last years, and this in some cases led … to violence against Roma".


Hungary court orders denier to visit Auschwitz

A court in Hungary has handed a Holocaust-denier an unconventional punishment. Gyorgy Nagy, 42, was ordered to visit either Hungary’s Holocaust memorial centre, Auschwitz or Yad Vashem in Israel. Nagy, an unemployed computer technician, is the first Hungarian convicted under the country’s new Holocaust denial law which came into effect in February 2010. The Budapest court also gave him an 18-month suspended jail sentence.

If Nagy chooses to visit the local Holocaust memorial centre, he will have to make three trips and write down his thoughts and observations after the visits. Nagy was arrested at a political rally in Budapest in 2011 when police noticed he was holding a banner with the words: “The Shoah didn’t happen.” In the 2010 law, the Hungarian government made denial of the genocide committed by the Nazi regime a crime punishable by a maximum of three years in prison.

The bill to ban denial or questioning of the Holocaust was submitted by Attila Mesterhazy, chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party. Despite the new law, Hungary’s current Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, has been recently sharply criticised by many Jewish organisations for pandering to nationalists and tolerating anti-Semitism.  In one of the most notable cases, Mr Orban’s government was accused of having approved the naming of a park in Gyomro — a small town on the outskirts of Budapest — after Miklos Horthy, the country’s wartime leader and a close ally of Adolf Hitler.  Mr Orban has also been accused of failing to condemn anti-Semitic statements made in recent months by some members of far-right party Jobbik.

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