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The Incomplete Transition in Hungary

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2017

Renáta Uitz
Affiliation:
Central European University in Budapest
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Summary

INTRODUCTION: THE “THREE PHASES” IN THE HUNGARIAN CONTEXT

In the case of post-Communist regimes, such as Hungary, the “three phases approach” as envisioned by this book might be somewhat more challenging to conceptualise than for those Western European democracies which did not undergo a regime change after WWII. Therefore, before commencing a detailed analysis, a caveat is necessary.

Hungary began its democratic existence in 1989. At the time, it had two repressive, authoritarian periods to account for (the so-called actual repression phase, phase 1): the older one which was responsible for Hungary's part in the holocaust during WWII, and a more recent one, the communist regime which in addition to being a deeply authoritarian regime was also responsible for at least two major waves of grave injustice: one following the stabilisation of the communist regime after its settling in, and another wave of repression aiming to suppress the 1956 revolution. The period of transitional justice falling between 1989 and 2000 is a dense and intense stretch of two decades wherein the qualities of the central phase (phase 2) and the long-term effects (phase 3) as understood by the project concept often merge. This overlap between the central phase and the long-term effects is far from being over. The incompleteness of the transition project is partly due to the fact that transitional justice measures (including retroactive criminal justice measures, amnesties and rehabilitations) came in waves after 1989, as a result of an intense dialogue between the political branches of the state and the Constitutional Court. Nonetheless, despite the adoption of a wide range of legal instruments, as the politics following the 2010 elections demonstrate, the quest to achieve justice for the past continues.

In order to demonstrate that reconciliation over authoritarian regimes and grave injustices perpetrated by them is far from complete in Hungary, suffice it to mention that the conservative-Christian coalition which won a constitution making majority in 2010, in the fi ft h regular democratic election since 1989, declared that the elections amount to a “revolution in the voting booth” which will finally bring so-called “true transition” to Hungary.

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Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2014

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