Hungary debates introducing minority seats in parliament
02 April 1998
Throughout December, the Hungarian press reported that the government was drafting legislation that would provide seats for minority representatives in Parliament. On January 16, however, the press reported that elections for minority representatives would not be held during the May general elections, but would be postponed until October’s local elections; the relevant bills would be withdrawn from Parliament for redrafting. Interior Minister Gábor Kuncze told the press, „The delay will allow sufficient time for preparations should the Constitutional Court request a preliminary review of the legislation.” On January 27, however, Magyar Távirati Iroda (MTI) reported that MP Mihály Bihari of the ruling Hungarian Socialist Party had proposed that election of minority representatives be postponed until the general election in 2002. The statement drew criticism from representatives of junior coalition partner Alliance of Free Democrats who persisted in pressing for elections for minority representatives this year. The future of the bill is nevertheless uncertain.
There are thirteen recognised minorities in Hungary, the largest of which is the Roma minority (cigány). At present there are no seats explicitly reserved for minorities. There is, however, one Romani parliamentarian, Ms Antónia Hága (Alliance of Free Democrats). Earlier post-communist Hungarian parliaments have seen as many as three Romani MPs. Ms Hága has stated that she will not seek another term in office.
New developments with respect to the bill were reported on February 7, when three Romani organisations Foundation for Romani Civil Rights, Phralipe, and Roma Parliament announced that they were forming a national alliance to challenge the constitutionality of sections of the draft law under which only the National Gypsy Minority Self-Government (Országos Cigány Kisebbségi Önkormányzat), a government body, would be allowed to nominate candidates for the minority seats.