Last week László Kövér, the speaker of the Hungarian Parliament in an interview that sparked sharp controversy criticized today`s law making practice and proposed a kind of governance by decree. Policy Agenda has analyzed the work of the Parliament several times during this cycle and has got to the conclusion based on statistics that contrary to the practice of the past 20 years, a new method: governace by the parliamentary factions has been introduced by Fidesz in legislation. Is it possible that Fidesz now want to break with the system they themselves established in legislative work?
Governing by the parliamentary factions
The number of bills submitted by the parliamentary factions of the governing parties exceeded the number of those submitted by the government, especially at the beginning of this parliamentary cycle. In the previous cycles it was mostly the bills submitted by the government that the MPs debated before enactment, while since 2010 on, the prime minister who has behaved as if he did not trust his ministers has shifted most of the weight of legislation on pro-government MPs.
Since the beginning of the present cycle, 318 bills have been submitted and enacted by the government (we are not counting here the international agreements promulgated) and pro-government MPs have submitted and enacted 278 bills. Without the international agreements, the government submitted 53% while pro-government MPs submitted 45% of all the bills, the remaining 2% of the bills was submitted by different parliamentary commissions and the opposition. In the previous cycle this ratio was 80%-13% for the government.
In the light of the speaker`s interview, it is possible that M Kövér wants to reduce the unnecessary red tape in the Parliament. On the other hand, statistics show this system was introduced by Fidesz and its main aim obviously has been to make the MPs accomplices in the legislative processes. In other words, the prime minister does not want his parliamentary factions behave like outsiders criticizing codification processes and parliamentary work as if they were members of a jury. Also, this pace of work in „the law factory” is in agreement with the method of governace by parliamentary factions since coordinating processes between experts need much less time.
László Kövér`s words also mean that he finds the legislative pressure put on the House unnecessary. He would shift more of the job on the government and as he said the Parliament should work out the basic legislation structures only.
Today`s legislative practice also applies this method since – mostly in the implementation details of specific laws – it is the government that is authorized by the Parliament to specify practical details of legal regulations.
At the same time the intensified legislative speed forces the House to endlessly work out amendments – and Fidesz only have themselves to thank for it. In 2013, 117 laws have been enacted and promulgated – without the international agreements. Very few of these laws created new regulations they rather aimed at modifying laws enacted earlier. How impenetrable the legislation system is can clearly be seen in the fact that the above mentioned 117 laws were to amend 727 other laws. That is, Fidesz did not want to regulate an uncontrolled sphere by law but for some reason their MPs drafted bundles of amendments in order to amend an average of 6 different laws at the same time. In ten cases the laws enacted consisted of at least the amendments to 15 other laws.
Obviously, such an intensive legislative work puts too much pressure on the Parliament, but it is the executive sphere which isunder real pressure since they have to continuously adjust to changing laws.
Is the idea of governance by decree a kind of self-criticism?
Though Fidesz tried quickly to refute or explain the commenter`s accusations that they are aiming at ruling by decree system but we must see the speaker`s words describe a real problem and a reasonable idea.
In our opinion the speaker`s idea about governing by decree in fact is the critic of both the governance by the parliamentary factions (a method introduced by Fidesz) and the excessive legislative campaign, moreover, it is not for the first time that Mr Kövér denounced both the quality and the quantity of legislative work in Parliament. The question is how strong debate will the suggestions induce between the speaker and the prime minister.