The Emerging Trend of Parliamentary Performance: Freedom of Expression in the Hungarian National Assembly

Laurent Fabius, the former President of the French National Assembly, once called the parliament, rather poetically “a theatre of shadows”. It was a harsh criticism of the mostly formal and insignificant role of parliament in the legislative process under the excessive dominance of the Executive. A few years ago Hungarian opposition MPs decided to turn their own “theater” into something more meaningful, or at least more amusing. They have been using all kinds of creative techniques to express their opinion in the hemicycle. It seems, however, that the Speaker and the parliamentary majority do not really appreciate this new trend of performing arts for they constantly impose heavy penalties on the MPs. This practice is a reminder that the principle of parliamentary autonomy needs to be reconsidered in light of contemporary political realities.

The repertoire

In the most recent case, during his speech, the vice-president of the majority party (Fidesz) was accusing one of the opposition factions (LMP) of collaborating with George Soros (the Hungarian born American billionaire and philanthropist) with the purpose of settling migrants on Hungary. While he spoke two MPs from LMP stood behind him and were holding sheets with the text: “He is lying”. They were each fined approximately 1,400 EUR by the Committee on Immunity for this act, but the plenary was requested to make the final decision. Another good example took place during the re-elected President of the Republic’s inaugural speech, when a particularly creative opposition MP stood on her chair while holding a marionette with the face of the re-elected President of the Republic, thus expressing that he was the puppet of the government. Her salary was reduced by approximately 790 EUR. The repertoire of the parliamentary opposition includes displaying billboards, using megaphone and sirens, installing paper-maché sculptures and so on. Their creativity can always surprise the House ...

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