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Constitutional limits

On the occasion of ratifying the new constitution, the Hungarian government received a great amount of criticism. The BBJ, being a paper that values the liberty of free thought, agrees with parts of the critique, mainly the ones that challenge the document for disregarding human rights.

But, being also a business paper, the BBJ must admit that certain parts of the constitution, such as the introduction of a debt ceiling, even at the price of reducing the government’s jurisdiction, are not necessarily the work of the devil. Far from it.

The fact that there is a debt ceiling enshrined in the constitution might be an unorthodox measure, but in a country that has suffered from ever-increasing public debt and irresponsible spending, we see it as a good thing, maybe. It could be argued that it should not be 50%, as it is, but it is probably superfluous to do so: there are several “exceptions” to this rule, including periods of economic difficulty. It could also be argued that linking tax legislation to a two-thirds majority vote will make the tax system inflexible. However, another word for inflexible is predictable. It could turn out to be predictably bad, which would be a bad thing, but we are sure that the minor tax laws, which will probably set the rates if not the tax types, will allow the government some room for adaptation to circumstances.

We can only hope that basing so many important regulations on a two-thirds majority will eventually force Hungarian politics to become more consensual. At the moment, it does not seem likely that there will be another government with a two-thirds majority in the near future, which means that with the new constitutional checks on government power could force governing parties to make deals with the opposition. However, the often arrogant way the current government is exercising its power does not form a good precedent for the future.