The system of state
In Hungary, the present structure of the state and the system of public administration institutions were established following the democratic transition in 1989-90, and apart from minor rectifications, modifications and modernisation it did not fundamentally change until 2010, when the Fidesz-KDNP government with a two-third majority in the Parliament made significant changes.
The National Assembly (Parliament)
The electoral system used in Hungary is regulated by the Fundamental Law, the Act on Electoral Procedure, and the Act on the Election of Members of Parliament.
The Parliament consists of 199 members from the elections in 2014, before there were 386 seats. Pursuant to the new rules, the mixed electoral system consists of one round, and the efficiency threshold was annulled, only the candidates receiving the most valid votes obtain a mandate, irrespective of the number of the actual voters. Instead of the 176 individual constituencies there is only 106. Regional lists were annulled so fragmented votes may only be produced in the individual constituencies, and these are added to the number of the votes in the party list. At the same time, the winning party is entitled to receive fragmented votes for the candidate winning mandate in the individual constituency, whose amount is conforming to the difference in the number of votes for the candidates in the first and second places. A mandate may be received for the result achieved in the list but only if it exceeds the 5% threshold.
Hungarian minorities abroad received the right to vote, but Hungarian citizens who reside outside Hungary may only vote for party lists. The national minorities are provided with the possibility to obtain a mandate in an easier manner, and in case they fail to win a mandate in spite of the above, they may send a national minority advocate to the Parliament.
The Parliament elects the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the members of the Constitutional Court and also the Chair of the Constitutional Court, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, the President of the Curia of Hungary and the General Prosecutor.
The President of the Republic
The President of the Republic of Hungary is elected by a secret ballot for five years by a two-third majority of the Parliament. Hungarian citizens with the right to vote above the age of 35 are eligible for the presidency. The first President of the Republic of Hungary was Árpád Göncz, elected in 1990 and re-elected in 1995. In 2000 the Parliament elected Ferenc Mádl, and in 2005 László Sólyom was elected as President. In 2010 Pál Schmitt followed, but resigned in 2012 due to his plagiarism case and was followed by János Áder, who was re-elected in 2017.
The President’s powers relate to several functions. The Parliament may be adjourned and dissolved by the President of the Republic. He ratifies law and ensures its promulgation. If he disagrees with a law, he has a one-time veto power over it before ratifying. He announces general parliamentary elections. In addition, he may initiate various measures: the Prime Minister is elected by the Members of Parliament based on the recommendation made by the President and also the President gives mandate to form government. He appoints, among others, the ministers, secretaries of state (state ministers), army generals and professional judges. He exercises the right to grant presidential pardon for individuals (although the counter-signature of the Prime Minister is also required). The exercise of certain powers requires a countsignature by the Prime Minister. The President of the Republic is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces and he has certain rights concerning foreign affairs as well.
Executive power – government functions and the highest-level control of public administration – is exercised by the government, in which the Prime Minister plays a dominant role. The Parliament holds the vote on the election of the Prime Minister and on the adoption of the Government's programme at the same time. The mandate of the head of government is also strengthened by the fact that he/she can only be replaced after that the Parliament passes a motion of no-confidence. The Government is formed upon appointment of the Ministers, who take their oaths at the same time. The establishment of ministries is the prerogative of the National Assembly; their list is set out in law.
Following the 2018 elections, a new ministry, the Ministry of Innovation and Technology was set up. This ministry is responsible for the management of the Hungarian vocational education and training system, and as of 1 September 2019, the management of tertiary education.
The Constitutional Court
The Constitutional Court of Hungary (CC) is a body of fifteen members elected for the period of 12 years by two-thirds majority of the Members of the Parliament. The President of the Constitutional Court is elected from the members of the Court for a period ending at the expiration of his term of office as a Constitutional Court Judge. The members of the Constitutional Court may not be party members and may not pursue political activity. The members of the Constitutional Court may not be re-elected. Persons who were members of the government or leading officials of a party or held high state position in the four years preceding the day of election may not be members of the Constitutional Court.
The amendment to the Act on the Constitutional Court that entered into force on 1 January 2012 re-defines the competence of the CC in accordance with the Fundamental Law. The most significant change is that the CC may, on the grounds of constitutional complaint, examine the conformity of judicial decisions with the Fundamental Law as well as with the law applied to each case. From January it also falls under the competence of the CC to start a process (following a judicial initiative) to determine the constitutionality of the law applicable to the specific case case. The new Fundamental Law retains the possibility of posterior norm control to the government, to one-quarter of the Members of the Parliament and to the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, i.e. the possibility open to everybody to turn to the Constitutional Court without legal interest is terminated.
The authority of the Constitutional Court was limited by a new regulation: the Constitutional Court may not examine and annul laws on the budget, taxes, customs and charges only if these are violate the right to life and human dignity, the right to the protection of personal data, the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, or the rights related to the Hungarian nationality.
The Judiciary Organisation
The function of the judiciary system is to serve justice, the main forms of which are criminal justice, civil justice and controlling the legality of administrative decisions.
In 2012 the judiciary system was reformed in Hungary. Accordingly, jurisdiction may be exercised by the following courts:
- the Curia of Hungary
- Regional Courts of Appeal
- General Courts
- District and Municipal Courts (hereinafter jointly referred to as District Courts), and
- Administrative and Labour Courts
The central administration and organisational structure of the courts were transformed. In the new system the President of a body independent from legislative and executive powers, i.e. the National Office for the Judiciary (NOJ) fulfils the duty of central administration. The President of NOJ is elected to the recommendation of the President of the Republic, for a period of 9 years, from among the judges who have been in service for at least 5 years, by two-thirds majority of the Members of the Parliament. The chief administrative and the chief technical executive posts are separated: now a different person is the President of the NOJ and the President of the Curia of Hungary. The President of NOJ performs his/her functions under strict control, supervised by the National Council of Justice (NCJ) consisting only of judges.
The President of NOJ performs the central administration of courts, undertakes the competences relating to their budget, and supervises the administration activities of the presidents of regional courts of appeal and general courts. The President appoints the chief court staff and makes proposals to appoint judges; also, in case a court is under heavy workload, the President may, at the court’s request or at the proposal of the Prosecutor General, designate another court to ensure that the cases are assessed within reasonable time.
According to the 7th modification (after the 2018 elections) of the Fundamental Law the courts are now divided to regular and administrative courts. The administrative courts decide on administrative disputes and other matters which are specified in the law. The highest authority for the administrative courts is the Supreme Administrative Court, which guarantees the unified application of the law in all administrative courts, and imposes legally binding decisions on the administrative courts.
As of 31 March 2020, the administrative and labour courts were abolished due to a change in legislation. As of 1 April 2020, eight courts (Budapest-Capital Regional Court, Budapest Environs Regional Court, Debrecen Regional Court, Győr Regional Court, Miskolc Regional Court, Pécs Regional Court, Szeged Regional Court and Veszprém Regional Court) are acting in administrative lawsuits at first instance.
The Budapest-Capital Regional Court has exclusive jurisdiction over cases that previously fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Budapest-Capital Administrative and Labour Court (e.g. visa and statelessness matters). In administrative court cases, the Supreme Court of Hungary (’Kúria’) acts in appeal or review proceedings at second instance. The Supreme Court may exceptionally act as a first and exclusive forum, e.g. in assembly matters.
In labour court cases, the competent regional court acts at first instance, the competent regional court of appeal acts in appellate proceedings and the Supreme Court acts in review proceedings. The new provision is in the favour of the employees, as the employer can only bring a lawsuit in the regional court of the employee’s domicile or place of residence, and there is still no place for a jurisdiction clause in labour court cases.
Public Prosecutor’s Office
The Prosecutor General is elected to the recommendation of the President of the Republic by two-thirds majority of the Members of the Parliament. Due to an amendment of the Constitution in 2010 the term of office of the Prosecutor General was extended from 6 years to 9 years, also the Parliament may not address the Prosecutor General with interpellation any longer.
The general rules for the election of the Ombudsman are included on the one hand in the Fundamental Law, on the other hand in the Act on Providing the Fundamental Laws. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and its Deputies are elected for six years by the two-thirds of the Members of the Parliament. In 2012 the mandates of the Commissioner for national and ethnic minorities, and the Ombudsman for Future Generations ceased to exist, in the future their tasks will be fulfilled by the Deputies of the new Commissioner for Fundamental Rights.
Public administration, local governments
Hungary has a two-tier local government system as on the Act on the Local Governments of Hungary, as well as the Fundamental Law distinguishes a municipal and a regional level. Municipal local governments and regional local governments are jointly referred to as local governments.
The country is divided into 19 counties, 7 statistical regions and Budapest, the capital. County level governments are also elected locally and directly but they have extremely restricted powers and budget. Settlements have an opportunity to establish regional co-operation on voluntary and multi-purposive basis. The above micro-regional associations provide opportunity for a more efficient organisation of the fulfilment of municipal tasks, and a customised application of the instruments of the national regional development policy to solve social and economic problems specific to the micro region.
The general rights of local governments, in compliance with the Fundamental Law, are detailed in the Act on Local Governments of Hungary. The new regulation required the clarification of the relation, the tasks and spheres of action between the state and the local governments. Local governments still have to fulfil the following tasks among others: kindergarten education, basic health care, settlement development, children well-being and social services, however, except for kindergarten education, the tasks of general education and institutional health care were removed from the tasks of local governments, and in addition to the above, several public administration tasks were transferred to the Government Offices, and certain tasks of disaster management are also fulfilled by the deconcentrated bodies of the state.
With the new system of the public and municipal tasks, a new task funding system was also established, whose definite aim is to provide functioning local government services in all settlements of Hungary. In the sense of the above, a budget cannot be accepted with a deficit. In order to eliminate deficits, between 2012 and 2014, the Government executed a local government consolidation in each settlement with a population below 5,000 people. Based on the new municipal office structure, those settlements whose population is below 2,000 people, may not operate an independent local government.
Horizontally, administrative responsibilities are shared within ministries; mainly between two ministries directly responsible for education and training (namely the Ministry of Human Resources and the Ministry of Innovation and Technology) and other ministries. Vertically, administrative control is shared at central (national), regional (regions, counties), local (settlements) and institutional levels. Sectoral administration at national level is mainly implemented through a comprehensive general framework of regulations.
In terms of general education, the authority of the Ministry of Human Resources is restricted to general administrative and regulatory responsibilities. These are the following: setting the criteria and conditions for compulsory education and providing a framework of operation for public education institutions and the examinations at the end of upper secondary education. The sectoral administration of vocational education and training as well as adult training is undertaken by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology in accordance with the relevant legal regulations.
The supervision of higher education is provided by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology.
Educational expenditures in relation to the GDP have decreased between 2007 and 2013. However, since 2014, growth has been observed. According to the data of the Central Statistical Office (KSH), Hungary spent 4.38% of the GDP on education expenditure in 2016.
In 2018, the central budget spent 81 billion HUF more on education than in the previous years, in 2019, the sector could expect a surplus of 15 billion HUF compared to 2018. The growth will continue, in 2020 there will be another 60 billion HUF more for education than in the previous year. In the 4th quarter of 2018, 25.1% of the Hungarian population had a tertiary education qualification, and among the age 30-34 the proportion of tertiary education graduates was 34% in 2019.
In 2019, the highest completed level of education was vocational school for 18% of the population, while for 20% it was primary school. The smallest proportion, 17%, consisted of people without a completed primary education, but most of these people have not reached school age yet or they were still attending to primary school. In 2018, the number of upper-secondary school leavers with a maturity exam increased by nearly 800 to a total number of 61,800. In 2018, 1.5 times more graduates completed their studies in vocational schools compared to 2017, their share of all upper-secondary graduates increased to 3.3%. 55.5% of upper-secondary graduates still obtained their certificate in upper-secondary general schools, and 42.1% in upper-secondary vocational schools. In 2019, the distribution of the highest educational attainment of the population aged between 15-74 was as follows: 1.27% completed less than the required minimum for graduating primary education; 17.8% completed primary education; 32.2% completed vocational school; 30% completed the upper-secondary grammar studies with a successful maturity exam, and 18.7% the share of tertiary education graduates.
The level of education of women has increased more than it has for men over the past decade. However, women are still in majority among the low-educated. In 2016 30% of men and 36% of women had a completed primary education. In 2016, 31% of men and 35% of women had the maturity exam (upper secondary grammar school leaving exam) as the highest education level. First time that the proportion of women with a maturity exam was higher than the proportion of men was in 1980. In 2016, more than half of the graduates (56%) were women. The same trend continued in 2019.
27% of people aged 15 and over fulfilled maximum the 8 grades of primary school. Since the census in 2011 their rate has fallen by 5%.
Since the census in 2011, the number of the higher education graduates aged 20 and over has increased with 4%, therefore now every fifth person has a degree.
Hungary’s commitment to the EU 2020 Strategy is to increase the proportion of graduates between age 25 and 34 to 34% by 2020. In 2015, 34.3% of the population had a degree, this rate fell to 32.1% in 2017, increased to 33.7% in 2018, than fell to 33.4% in 2019.