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Government and Politics in Hungary

András Körösényi
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 352
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    Government and Politics in Hungary
    Book Description:

    Based on unprecedented access to information, Government and Politics in Hungary provides not only a historical overview but also an analysis of the main political actors, constitution, electoral system, parliament and political parties of Hungary. This timely and detailed analysis contains a wealth of important data which serves two major objectives. The first is to survey the most important institutions of the political and governmental systems and the cultural and behavioural characteristics of Hungarian politics. The second, is to provide the reader with a clear understanding of the two-way relationship between cultural-behavioural and constitutional-institutional levels of politics in Hungary. The book challenges many stereotypes of post-communist political literature and reveals why Hungarian politics does not fit into many of the generalizations and 'pigeon holes' of contemporary political science.

    eISBN: 978-615-5211-37-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. xvii-xvii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  6. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  7. Introduction Political Traditions
    (pp. 1-10)

    In the years following the democratic transition of 1989–1990, Eastern and Western European political scientists alike pondered the same point: to what extent would the emerging democracies in Hungary and the other East-Central European countries be viable? The factors making the stabilization of these democracies more difficult included not only the social costs of the simultaneous transition to a market economy, but also the weakness of the democratic political culture and traditions. In this introduction we seek to identify which elements of the historical legacy have influenced political development since the régime transition. In doing so, we progress from...

  8. Chapter One Political Culture
    (pp. 11-26)

    Political culture can be approached from several angles. According to one approach political culture signifies the collective cultural and behavioural models of the political community, combined with the modes of collective problem-solving and conflict resolution that ,the community employs and shares (Bibó, 1986–90; Dahl, 1971; Kende, 1994). Our political way of thinking ‘is never a direct function of direct experience or acquired knowledge. It is rather a product of shared interpretations that accumulate and develop into traditions across generations. The ways of, thinking and the attitudes to be found during this process are highly resistant to change, and it...

  9. Chapter Two The Parties
    (pp. 27-50)

    The role of political parties was decisive in Hungary during the transition, and the parties continue to be central to Hungarian politics today. Because of their importance, it is necessary that we give an overview of these parties before we proceed further in our discussion of the various elements of the Hungarian political system of the 1990s. This is the task of the present chapter. In the first two sections we consider the extent of party penetration into Hungarian political life and the roles that the parties play. We then describe briefly the principal ideological groupings into which the parties...

  10. Chapter Three The Party System
    (pp. 51-58)

    By the party system we mean the array of parties and the structure and dynamics of inter-party competition. This involves the system of interaction between the parties—how the individual parties are placed on the political spectrum, on what dimensions and in what ways inter-party competition takes place, what the role of ideology is, the extent to which particular parties are influenced by other parties, and how rival parties react to movements within the political spectrum. We deal here first with the left/right scale—which is the main dimension of competition in Hungary as elsewhere—second with the role of...

  11. Chapter Four Political Cleavages
    (pp. 59-70)

    At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, after four decades of political dictatorship and homogenizing social policies, many believed that Hungarian society was politically diffuse and undifferentiated and that the great majority of the voters who had suddenly obtained the right of electoral choice possessed no kind of political identity.¹ In fact, however, politics in Hungary since the democratic transition has been marked by deep political cleavages—cleavages that cut through both the political élite and the wider electorate.

    In this chapter and the two that follow it, we examine those cleavages and the effects...

  12. Chapter Five Political Elites
    (pp. 71-102)

    Classical élite theories emphasize the point that the distribution of power and influence in every society is unequal. In every political community and political system, there are people and groups that possess greater political power and influence than the others. They form the political élite. The individuals and groups forming the political élite either possess direct political power through holding positions of public power, or they possess influence over political decisions through their influence over those who make those decisions.

    Who belongs to the political élite? The political élite is composed of the members of the political leadership and of...

  13. Chapter Six Electoral Behaviour
    (pp. 103-116)

    This chapter considers electoral behaviour at the micro-level—the level of the individual voter. First we analyse the level of volatility in voters’ party preferences. Then we assess the extent to which patterns nevertheless exist in those preferences—that is, we assess the degree to which party preferences and a range of demographic, sociological and other variables are linked. Finally, we consider the value systems and political attitudes of the voters and the connection between these and party preference. We will turn to the macro-level of electoral studies—that of election results and the overall distribution of support between the...

  14. Chapter Seven The Electoral System and Elections
    (pp. 117-132)

    Elections are among the most important events in any democratic political system: their results have a large bearing over—and often determine—the composition of government during the years that follow. In this chapter we therefore consider the three parliamentary elections that have taken place since the régime change in Hungary (a short overview of the results is given in Appendix B). A large part of that analysis will concern the electoral system—which, of course, has a powerful impact upon the final outcome in terms of the distribution of parliamentary seats. Hungary’s electoral system is an unusually complex one....

  15. Chapter Eight Economic Interest Groups and Interest Reconciliation
    (pp. 133-144)

    During the democratic transition, besides the parties, organized interest groups also appeared spontaneously in Hungarian politics. Tens of thousands of associations, foundations and interest-representative organizations emerged during the first half of the 1990s. In what follows we will consider only a few of these, focusing upon economic interest-representative organizations that possess political weight, and in particular upon the role of trade unions and institutional interest reconciliation.

    The processes of economic and political transformation have changed fundamentally the structural position and operational conditions of the trade unions. Institutions of plant-level worker participation and of macro-level interest reconciliation have both developed. With...

  16. Chapter Nine The Constitutional and Governmental System
    (pp. 145-172)

    One of the most important historical features of the Hungarian constitution is that for centuries it was based upon customary law. The common law ‘selected’ from the corpus of written and unwritten law those laws that were to have constitutional strength and to become constitutional traditions. The so-called historical constitution that developed in this way remained in force until the middle of the twentieth century. The continuity of the historical constitution—discounting the short period of 1918–19—was broken only with the end of the Second World War. Act I of 1946 brought to an end the monarchy that...

  17. Chapter Ten The Government
    (pp. 173-206)

    In modern parliamentary systems, the government is able to exercise considerable control over all parts of the state apparatus—from the legislature through the ministries to the public administration. This applies as much to the Hungarian government as to any other. In what follows, we consider the Hungarian government first from the point of view of its legal structure, and second in light of the political factors that influence the manner of its operation. We then focus our attention in particular upon the prime minister and the sources of prime-ministerial power. Finally, we consider in detail how the Hungarian government...

  18. Chapter Eleven Governmental Decision-Making and Control over tbe Administration
    (pp. 207-224)

    Hungary is not a federal but a unitary state. Nevertheless, its public administration is divided into two parts: the centralized state administration that is subordinate to the central organs of state and, in general, ultimately to the government; and the functional self-governments and local councils that possess considerable powers and autonomy aside from their executive-type administrative activities. The extent of decentralization in the Hungarian administration—the breadth of the jurisdiction and power of the self-governments and local councils—is considerable—above all in regard to decision-making jurisdictions but also in respect of financial independence. Local councils are particularly strong at...

  19. Chapter Twelve The Parliament
    (pp. 225-262)

    We have already discussed the role of parliament in the process of government formation. In the present chapter, we consider the operation of the parliament as a legislative, decision-making institution, as well as the parliament’s representative responsibilities and the functions of the parliament in respect of governmental oversight and political publicity.

    European parliamentarism is built upon two traditions that differ from each other in many respects. In one, the parliament is above all the institution for the representation of the people and the bearer of popular sovereignty; in the other, it is rather an institution that assists that assists governance...

  20. Chapter Thirteen The Constitutional Court
    (pp. 263-274)

    Among the constitutional courts of Western Europe, the strongest are those found in countries that experienced dictatorship during the interwar period—it was here that, during the reconstruction of democracy in the aftermath of the Second World War, the perception of the need for a guarantor of the constitutional state was greatest. By contrast, in countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the institution of the constitutional court continues to be absent. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary, have tended, in the wake of the collapse of the communist system, to follow the first path...

  21. Chapter Fourteen The Head of State
    (pp. 275-284)

    The head of state in Hungary is the president of the republic. The presidency was created by constitutional amendment on 23rd October 1989, and it was filled for the first time on 3rd August 1990, with the election of Árpád Göncz. Göncz continues to hold the ofice today. Reflecting the parliamentary nature of Hungarian government, the presidency is a weak institution. Its powers are largely ceremonial, and election to the post is indirect. Nevertheless, as will be seen, the particular political circumstances of the early 1990s gave the presidency, at least for a time, a greater role than its constitutional...

  22. Conclusion Hungarian Democracy
    (pp. 285-298)

    In the thematic chapters we have surveyed the most important institutions of Hungary’s political and governmental system and the most important cultural and behavioural characteristics of Hungarian politics. In what follows we do not wish to give a strict thematic summary of this—that would only repeat the conclusions given at the end of each chapter. Rather we will seek to build upon those chapters in order to develop a more analyttcal understanding of the character of the relationship between the cultural-behavioural and institutional levels. As the basis of this we take Arend Lijphart’s majoritarian and consensus models of democracy,...

  23. Appendices
    (pp. 299-304)
  24. Bibliography
    (pp. 305-322)
  25. Index
    (pp. 323-330)