Hungary set to approve disputed new constitution

BUDAPEST: Hungary’s parliament was set to approve a new constitution Monday, which critics slam as an “ultimatum” by Prime Minister Viktor Orban that will only enhance his power and that of his Fidesz party.With references to God, Christianity, the Holy Crown of Hungary, the fatherland and traditional family values, the text — which is almost assured of going through parliament thanks to Fidesz’s two-thirds majority of seats — has raised concerns in the Hungarian press and among observers.Critics see it as discriminatory and worry about the status of those who will not fit the mould, such as non-believers, homosexuals or single-parent families.Last week, three major Hungarian NGOs criticised that the text “is the product of one political party”, and as such “does not meet the requirements deriving from the principle of the rule of law”.

Another political commentator called it an “Orban ultimatum” and equated it to a constitutional “coup” that would enable Fidesz to remain in control even if it is voted out of power.While Orban has criticised the current constitution as a Soviet creation, political analysts note that it was reworked after the fall of communism in collaboration with all the main political actors.The new text on the other hand was drafted by Fidesz alone, after opposition parties refused to participate.On Thursday, Orban told top EU officials in Brussels that Hungary was prepared to let legal experts examine the new text to ensure it was in line with EU treaties.Nevertheless, parliament was expected to pass the constitution at 1215 GMT on Monday.The approved text must then be signed by President Pal Schmitt on April 25, before coming into force on January 1, 2012.Thousands of Hungarians gathered over the weekend in a wave of protests targeting the new constitution and other government measures, and more were planned on Monday to mourn what civil groups call “the death of democracy”.