Overview and context
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Hungary is a republic (since the constitutional amendment of 1989) which entered the EU in 2004. It is a unicameral parliamentary democracy governed by the principles of popular sovereignty. The Prime Minister is the head of the government and the President is the head of the state and appoints ministers according to the recommendations made by the Prime Minister. A Prime Minister is officially appointed by the President, subject to the majority vote of Members of Parliament (MPs). Executive power lies with the government and legal power is shared by the government and Parliament, which approves government programmes, and has the right to initiate a motion of no-confidence against the government and elect a new Prime Minister.
The Parliament is comprised of 199 members (down from 386 between 1990 and 2014) of the House of the Representatives, who are directly elected by citizens every four years. The last parliamentary election took place in June 2014, and the next one is expected to take place in 2018. Parliamentary decisions are made by simple majority of the votes of members present, and qualified majority is required for certain decisions. The Parliament adopts the Constitution, elects the President of the Republic and approves international treaties. The President is elected indirectly by the Parliament for a term of five years. The next presidential election is expected to take place in 2017.
There are four sources of law: the Constitution, Acts of Parliament, Decrees and international agreements. The Constitution, the Fundamental Law of Hungary, is the highest level of legal norm that define basic structure and operation of the state. Amendment of the Fundamental Law requires a two-thirds majority of all MPs. The Speaker of the House signs the Fundamental Law or its amendment, which is sent to the President for final signature and the official publication in the Official Gazette within five days of the receipt. A series of amendments to the 1989 Constitution following the 2011 elections attracted heavy international criticism (including from the European Parliament, the European Commission and the US government). Critics say that changes to judicial independence, religious rights, media independence and political campaign ads, weaken Hungary’s democracy.
Other forms of legislation are defined by the Act 11 of 1987 on Legislation. Acts of Parliament are adopted by a simple majority of votes in the Parliament (more than half of the MPs present) or qualified majority. Bills are discussed by designated parliamentary committees and the plenary meetings of the Parliament before the final vote to adopt the new bill or its amendment. Nearly 300 bills are submitted each year. While 55% of proposed legislation is submitted by the Government, 40% by MPs and 5% by the committees; 90% of the adopted bills come from the submission of the Government. An average of 130 Acts is passed annually. There are three types of decrees recognised by the Legislation Act, with government decrees being at the top of hierarchy, followed by ministerial decrees and local government decrees. International agreements are acceded to by the government and later promulgated by domestic legislative forms.