The Return of the Hungarian Constitutional Court

Hungary’s 2011 constitutional reform also brought along the reform of the election system as a whole. The new constitution (Fundamental Law) extended the right to vote to all Hungarian citizens, irrespective of their country of residency (Article XXIII), and corresponding legal rules were enacted to make the acquisition of citizenship easier for Hungarians living abroad. The whole-scale election reform was complete with the introduction of a new central (national) voter registry. To be eligible to vote in the next national election, citizens were meant to individually apply to be listed in the central registry before the elections. The new central registry was meant to replace the old system, used since 1990, where the national list of voters was compiled automatically, via transferring voters’ names from the national population and residency databases.

The government communicated the election reform as a strong policy preference and defended the idea of conditioning the rights to vote on prior registration in the face of massive political and academic criticism. In order to make way for the new election rules parliament amended the Transitional Provisions of the Fundamental Law on November 9, 2012 to add a provision on prior registration as a precondition to the right to vote. The bill on the election reform was then passed on November 26, 2012. The president of the republic refused to sign the election bill into law and referred several provisions for preliminary review before the Constitutional Court.

In its first decision of the new year of January 7, 2013 the Constitutional Court agreed with the president of the republic and found the challenged provisions of the election bill, among them the rules on the central voter registry, unconstitutional [Decision 1/2013 (I. 7) AB] ...

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