The Hungarian parliament voted into law a new Constitution on 18th April 2011. A total of 262 members of parliament voted in favour, 44 against and one abstained. Only members of the ruling Fidesz party voted in favour, utilising its two thirds super-majority to drive through the new law.
The new Constitution will come into force on 1 January 2012 if the President signs it next week.
Although “disability” is listed as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the new Constitution, it embeds discrimination against people with disabilities.
Over 67,000 people in Hungary are denied full legal capacity and placed under guardianship. In the current (old) Constitution they are prohibited from voting. The new Constitution changes this, by saying that judges will decide whether people have the required “mental ability” to vote. (“Those deprived of their right to vote by a court for limited mental ability and for a criminal offense shall not have the right to vote.” Article XXIII(6) of the new Constitution).
MDAC’s Executive Director Oliver Lewis, said “MDAC believes that the ‘mental ability’ provision is an unsophisticated disguise for disability-based discrimination, as it will likely only be applied to people with intellectual disabilities and people with psycho-social (mental health) disabilities. It is astonishing that the Hungarian government has enacted a Constitution which does not even provide for universal suffrage for Hungarian adults with disabilities. A test for voting is pointless: no public policy goal is served by looking behind someone’s assertion to vote.”
Hungary was the first EU Member State to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD),
and it is legally binding. The Hungarian government is under an obligation to “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities” (Article 4(1)(b) of the CRPD). The CRPD sets out the right to vote and stand for election of all people with disabilities, without restriction or exception (Article 29 of the CRPD) and bans disability discrimination (Article 5 of the CRPD). MDAC’s view is that the new Constitution breaches these provisions.