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Constitutional Changes in Hungary and the National Consultation as a Deliberative Practice

Comparative Politics
Democracy
Political Parties
Populism
Communication
Daniel Oross
Centre for Social Sciences
Daniel Oross
Centre for Social Sciences
Kálmán Pócza
University of Public Service
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Abstract

Illiberal and populist actors apply various tools in their efforts of building trust and creating a direct link between the politicians and the ‘people’. The so-called 'national consultation' started in 2006 as an initiative of Fidesz party, and evolved over the years into a huge governmental campaign tool as Orbán became Prime Minister in 2010. It is a government-funded questionnaire that is sent to Hungarian citizens by mail. It contains a letter of the Prime Minister that is followed by a list of selectively chosen and carefully-crafted questions. In 2011 all Hungarian households received a letter and a questionnaire about the governments' position on the new fundamental law. Although the text of the New Fundamental Law was worded by elected officials, in collaboration with experts citizens were invited collectively to comment on the main principles of the document by answering 12 questions. Beyond presenting the main characteristics and results of the consultation process the aim of our paper is to reveal the variety and different functions of questions asked by the government party and to consider the effect of citizens’ reply on the constitutional process. Given the nature of these letters and questionnaires, it is safe to conclude that they serve as instruments of top-down rule, but no comparative research has been conducted so far to present the practice of 'national consultation' in frame of all deliberative democracy experiments related to constitution-like issues.