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Popular Rights in Hungary: A Brief Overview of Ideas, Institutions and Practice from the Late 18th Century until Our Days


Komáromi, László (2010). Popular Rights in Hungary: A Brief Overview of Ideas, Institutions and Practice from the Late 18th Century until Our Days. c2d Working Papers Series 35, Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau (ZDA) at the University of Zurich.

Abstract

The idea of the direct exercise of the people's power was raised for the first time in Hungary in the 1790s by members of the Hungarian Jacobin movement: Ignác Martinovics's draft constitution of 1793 adopted direct democratic elements of the French Montagnard Contitution (1793), but it did not become an effective law in the end. During the times of the Hungarian bourgeois transformation (1825-1848), the neo-absolutism (1849-1867) and of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (1867-1918) the idea of different popular rights were only rarely addressed on the political agenda. Thus the right to instruct and to recall parliamentary deputies - customary of nobleman's county assemblies at the time - remained a debated question (see e.g. the Kütahya draft constitution of Lajos Kossuth), although since 1848 Hungarian constitutional laws did not admit this practice. In 1903, the Hungarian Social Democratic Party included - presumably inspired by the Social Democratic Party of Germany - the direct legislation of the people manifested in their right to initiate and to "throw out" laws in its program. At the end of the First World War, Oszkár Jászi, Minister of Nationalities of the Károlyi Government, intended to form a cantonal system based on the Swiss model in Hungary and to hold referendums concerning Hungarian borders but this idea was refused by the Allied Powers. It came to a territorial plebiscite only once, in December 1921, in case of the town Sopron and its surroundings, according to a special agreement between Austria and Hungary. In the socialist era the Hungarian Constitution of 1949 enabled both optional legislative referendums and the recall of parliamentary deputies, but neither of them was implemented in practice until the end of the eighties. "Village meetings" and "public discussions" on local level didn't have any real power over local authorities. The "breakthrough" of direct democratic institutions is a product of the political transformation of 1989. Since then there have been six national referendums on twelve questions in Hungary. The paper sums up the experience thereof and the Constitutional Court?s most important decisions on direct democratic institutions.

Abstract

The idea of the direct exercise of the people's power was raised for the first time in Hungary in the 1790s by members of the Hungarian Jacobin movement: Ignác Martinovics's draft constitution of 1793 adopted direct democratic elements of the French Montagnard Contitution (1793), but it did not become an effective law in the end. During the times of the Hungarian bourgeois transformation (1825-1848), the neo-absolutism (1849-1867) and of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (1867-1918) the idea of different popular rights were only rarely addressed on the political agenda. Thus the right to instruct and to recall parliamentary deputies - customary of nobleman's county assemblies at the time - remained a debated question (see e.g. the Kütahya draft constitution of Lajos Kossuth), although since 1848 Hungarian constitutional laws did not admit this practice. In 1903, the Hungarian Social Democratic Party included - presumably inspired by the Social Democratic Party of Germany - the direct legislation of the people manifested in their right to initiate and to "throw out" laws in its program. At the end of the First World War, Oszkár Jászi, Minister of Nationalities of the Károlyi Government, intended to form a cantonal system based on the Swiss model in Hungary and to hold referendums concerning Hungarian borders but this idea was refused by the Allied Powers. It came to a territorial plebiscite only once, in December 1921, in case of the town Sopron and its surroundings, according to a special agreement between Austria and Hungary. In the socialist era the Hungarian Constitution of 1949 enabled both optional legislative referendums and the recall of parliamentary deputies, but neither of them was implemented in practice until the end of the eighties. "Village meetings" and "public discussions" on local level didn't have any real power over local authorities. The "breakthrough" of direct democratic institutions is a product of the political transformation of 1989. Since then there have been six national referendums on twelve questions in Hungary. The paper sums up the experience thereof and the Constitutional Court?s most important decisions on direct democratic institutions.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:Working Paper Series > C2D Working Paper Series
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
340 Law
900 History
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:03 Apr 2014 07:28
Last Modified:18 Apr 2018 11:44
Series Name:c2d Working Papers Series
Number of Pages:41
ISSN:1662-8152 (E)
Funders:Hungarian Eötvös Scholarship
Additional Information:A paper presented at Centre for Research on Direct Democracy in Aarau on the 7th of June, 2010. It is a revised and enlarged version of a paper presented at the conference of the International Commission for the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions in Lisbon on the 2nd of September, 2009. The revised and enlarged version was completed with support provided by the Hungarian State Eötvös Scholarship.
OA Status:Green
Related URLs:http://www.c2d.ch

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