Calendar of the most important dates for democracy building and the rule of law crisis in Hungary

23 October 1989: Act XXXI of 1989 was adopted to amend Act XX of 1949, the first codified constitution of Hungary. The amendment substantially, albeit not formally introduced a new constitution: it proclaimed the Hungarian republic and pruned away the constitution’s Soviet character. Several significant constitutional amendments followed, in 1989 and 1990.

April 1990: The first free and fair multiparty democratic elections in Hungary.

1995-1997: With over 70% of the parliamentary seats, the left-wing governing coalition could have changed the 1989 constitution because only two-thirds of the parliament was needed to amend it. Yet, the coalition refrained from changing the constitution or adopting a new one; instead, it adopted a rule that provided that 80% of Parliament had to agree to new procedural rules on constitution-making. The process failed because of the obstruction of the old ruling Socialist party.

1 May 2004: Hungary became a member of the European Union

April 2010: Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party won 68% of the parliamentary seats, which opened the way for adopting constitutional amendments and drafting a new constitution. The governing majority repealed the procedural rule adopted during the 1995-1997 constitution-drafting process.

April 2011: The governing majority adopted a new constitution, officially called the Fundamental Law, only requiring the votes of the governing party’s parliamentary members.

2011: Provisions were adopted to lower sitting judges’ retirement age from 70 to 62 and introduce a unique judicial administration system by abolishing the previous judicial self-governance and creating a National Judicial Office. New laws changed both the name of the Supreme Court to Kúria and the qualifications for all judges. The name change made all Supreme Court judges reapply for their jobs, and the new qualifications had the effect of removing the incumbent Supreme Court President before the end of his lawful term.

1 January 2012: The Fundamental law entered into force.

March 2013: The Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law was adopted, which completed the process in which the ruling majority effectively neutralised the Constitutional Court as a check on the government. Previously, between 1990 and 2010, the Constitutional Court was the most potent check in the constitutional structure.

April 2014: Fidesz gained roughly the same percentage of seats in Parliament as they had 2010. Notably, this result was achieved with 45% of the national list vote, as opposed to 53% in 2010. The OSCE-ODIHR concluded that the 2014 elections were free but not fair.
2015: Freedom House lowered its assessment of Hungary from a consolidated to semi-consolidated democracy

April 2018: Again, Fidesz gained roughly the same percentage of seats in Parliament as in 2010 and 2014. The OSCE-ODIHR again concluded that the elections were free but not fair. For example, Fidesz obtained 67% of the parliamentary seats with 49% of the national list vote, but the opposition won 32% of the seats with 44% of the national list vote.

September 2018: European Parliament triggered Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union against Hungary. Article 7(1) is the primary sanctions mechanism that requires the supermajority agreement of the other Member States to identify the risk of non-compliance with EU basic values.

2020: Freedom House categorised Hungary as a hybrid regime, whilst the Varieties of Democracy Project labelled Hungary an electoral autocracy.