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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Institutional Reforms and Judicial-Legislative Relations in Hungary

Attila Gyulai
University of Public Service
Kálmán Pócza
University of Public Service
Attila Gyulai
University of Public Service
Gábor Dobos
University of Public Service

Since measuring the impact of institutional reforms in general is one of the most difficult undertakings in political science, this study focuses on the specific question of the impact of institutional changes on constitutional adjudication by applying an innovative research methodology. Comparisons of formal powers of constitutional courts based on a predefined checklist (Gardbaum 2017) might help mapping cross-country patterns in institutional settings and formal powers of constitutional courts. Nevertheless, the question of what kind of influence various institutional settings might have on the practice of constitutional adjudication has never been examined accurately in the literature. Obviously, this paper can not fill this huge research gap, but by applying a within-case analysis it aims to show what kind of impact institutional changes might have on the strength of judicial decisions.

The concept of strength, as used in the JUDICON research project (, intends to show the extent to which judicial decisions have (and dissenting opinions would have) restricted the room for manoeuvre of the legislators (Pócza 2019). While all decisions of a constitutional court have the same legal binding force, they can reduce the scope of the activities of other political actors to varying degrees. We have elaborated a new methodology and a scale to measure the strength of judicial decisions and analyse whether the strength of the judicial decisions has been influenced by changes in institutional settings of constitutional courts.

It is a commonplace in the legal scholarship that the Hungarian Constitutional Court (HCC) has been one of the most powerful and strongest constitutional court in the world. It has, however, never been systematically mapped whether and how the HCC used its formal powers in practice. Also, constitutional changes concerning the position of the HCC within the Hungarian political system after 2010 had strong effect on the practice of constitutional adjudication and strength of judicial decisions, in this paper we will elucidate the special nature of these impacts. We examined all relevant decisions of the HCC and conducted a systematic and comprehensive time-series analysis about how institutional changes in the competence and composition of the HCC affected the practice of constitutional adjudication in Hungary.
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