The most wide-spread institution for the people to exercise its power is the indirect democracy, i.e. the most important decisions are made by the Parliament. The procedural rules from the Hungarian Parliamentary Act and the Rules of Procedure play a major role in the democratic decision-making process of the parliamentary decisions. The constitutional function of quorum supports to guarantee effective and sufficient participation in the process of community decision-making. Under the Act of the Parliament, members of the National Assembly have the right and duty to attend meetings. Members who are not present on a plenary meeting of the Parliament or a standing committee shall be subject to a remuneration reduction. Is this a constitutional solution?
Several institutions of direct democracy – primarily popular initiatives – are widespread interpreted as the strongest weapon of the distrustful people against the political elite. From this point of view one of the most important questions of these institutions’ design is the minimum number of the voters enough for initiating a referendum. Irrespectively of the sources of initiative – constitutions, voters, political parties or governments – it is also enlightening how do the national legal systems handle the decreasing level of political participation. How do they determine referendum’s turnout requirements: are there quorums, quotas of valid votes enough for a legally binding result?
As we can see from the abovementioned, there are many forms of getting people involved into state decisions: elections and referendums are the mostly current. However, another institution is strongly upcoming in the past decade in Hungary: this is the so-called national consultation. The national consultation has become an especially useful method in the recent years to invite citizen participation in the decision-making process between election cycles. The Hungarian government’s next national consultation is to be launched in mid-March and almost surely will be transformed into a parliamentary act by the time of this conference. This survey among others will include the payment of compensation to prisoners complaining about poor prison conditions which is – as for its opposers – an issue that can weaken Hungary’s security and go against justice. Will it be true? Can this issue arise constitutional anxieties?
Time is running and technology is developing. In the past decade new technologies changed the way we perceive and participate in democratic procedures, especially in elections and referenda. One side of this coin is all the technological advancements that help democratic participation: access to information on the issues and candidates, open marketplace of ideas, and of course the electronic voting mechanisms that become more and more widespread. On the other hand, the same progressions in information technology can undermine basic trust in democratic institutions: the spread of misinformation and fake news makes the people question everything they hear, and at the same time the opinion bubble generated by social media providers shut people off from dissenting opinions on their own beliefs. What will be the future?