Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

Hungary's new leaders face tough reform agenda

  • The Hungarian parliament is set to see a major overhaul (Photo: EUobserver)

A lighter bureaucracy, a tougher criminal code, a "green bank" to support climate-friendly investments and obligatory sports activities in schools - these are some of the priorities of Hungary's future one-party government after the overwhelming election victory by the conservative Fidesz party.

With 68 percent of the vote, Fidesz does not need a coalition partner for the 2010-14 legislature. Its two-thirds majority, established in Sunday's second round ballot, gives it the power to push through constitutional change and serious reforms. It also raises expectations among Fidesz' faithful, with any potential disappointments set to rebound in the favour of the far-right Jobbik party.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The new parliament's 386 seats will be filled by 263 Fidesz MPs, 59 social-democratic deputies, 47 from Jobbik, 16 from the liberal-green LMP faction and one independent member. The impact of Fidesz' victory has left the defeated parties reeling. The leader of the small conservative MDF party, pushed out of parliament, has resigned as has MSZP party chief Ildiko Lendvai.

Analysts for the Political Capital (PC) think tank believe Fidesz will not act swiftly to switch Hungary's constitution towards a French-style presidential system. Still, if the new government wants to keep voters happy, it will have to make good on promises to trim parliament and local government, moves which would require constitutional change.

PC director Peter Kreko said that plans to deliver a leaner local government are likely to meet heavy resistance from current holders of lucrative public office.

Fidesz party leader and likely next prime minister, Viktor Orban, wants to reduce the number of parliamentary seats from 386 to 200. In addition, experts believe he will go for symbolic changes such as rehabilitating the status of the holy Hungarian crown and introducing double citizenship as a gesture to Hungarian minorities living in neighbouring states.

Mr Orban has denied rumours that he intends to bring forward local elections scheduled for October. He said decisions of this kind need to be based on broad "national consultations" and could be introduced only in the longer term. Still, Fidesz seems to be serious about cutting back public administration costs from eight to six percent of GDP, which would amount to savings of some €1.8 billion. Another highly symbolic, although financially less important, move could be a salaries cap for board members of state-owned companies.

In the domestic security field, Fidesz has announced the strengthening of local police forces, with a special focus on the northern regions of the country. At the same time, the party plans to introduce a "three strike" rule for criminal offenders, meaning that anybody committing the same crime three times over would see their penalty doubled.

On taxation, the new government may try to close existing loopholes but has only limited room for promised tax cuts. Small and medium enterprises are the designated beneficiaries of whatever the new government manages to deliver. VAT on the building of "social flats" for the less well off is to drop to the EU's minimum five percent from the current 20 percent to help low-income families. By setting up a state-run green bank, Mr Orban also intends to boost sustainability and energy efficiency.

Fidesz wants to reintroduce the requirement that pupils who fail their exams in elementary schools repeat classes, a measure abolished by the social-liberal government. Additional mandatory sports classes will also be introduced to improve the comparatively poor physical shape of the country's youth.

The future leadership has already identified 13 investment projects contracted under the MSZP government for review, amid suspicions of corruption. Most concern large infrastructure projects and some are already under police investigation.

Terror attack shuts down UK parliament

[Updated] Westminster, and its surrounding areas, has been sealed off after a car drove into several people and one policeman was stabbed. At least three people have been killed.

La présidentielle française sous cyber-alerte maximale

Le président francais Francois Hollande a mobilisé "tous les moyens nécessaires" pour contrer d'éventuelle cyber-attaques avant l'election présidentielle d'avril et mai. Mais les partis politiques restent vulnérables.

EU doing well in global energy ranking

The majority of countries in the top-20 of the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index are members of the European Union, with Switzerland leading the list.

Child migrants endure 'abysmal conditions'

The Council of Europe's special representative on migration and refugees released a report that says minors in Europe are enduring "abysmal conditions".

News in Brief

  1. Russia invites EU diplomats to occupied Crimea
  2. UK parliament in lockdown after reported attack
  3. Brussels attacks remembered with minute of silence and noise
  4. Magnitsky's lawyer injured near Moscow
  5. Trump to travel to Brussels on 25 May for Nato summit
  6. Polish defence minister accuses Tusk of treason
  7. Fillon slips in polls as new allegations emerge
  8. Brexit summit for EU-27 will be on 29 April

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Advertisements
  2. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  3. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  4. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  6. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  7. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  8. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  9. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  10. Malta EU 2017Consumer Protection Laws to Be Strengthened by EU-Wide Cooperation
  11. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted
  12. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst

Latest News

  1. EU declaration to voice unity in troubled times
  2. Terror attack shuts down UK parliament
  3. Catalonia and Scotland at core of Europe's geopolitical conundrum
  4. La présidentielle française sous cyber-alerte maximale
  5. EU doing well in global energy ranking
  6. Child migrants endure 'abysmal conditions'
  7. French socialist woos Europe with new vision
  8. EU to Macedonia: 'Stop playing with fire'