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Hungarian Parliament Cancels Meeting on Proposed Child Protection Legislation, Raises Questions on Procedure and Timing

In a sudden turn of events, the Hungarian Parliament's Justice Committee canceled a meeting scheduled for Monday morning to discuss a not-yet-submitted legislative package aimed at enhancing child protection measures.
Despite the confusion and rush, the package might still be presented later on Monday.

The meeting was abruptly convened on Sunday evening at 19:33 and then canceled the following morning at 7:58, just hours before it was due to start at 10:15. The agenda was set to include only one item: the discussion of the child protection bill, which was drafted by the ruling Fidesz party. The unusual manner in which the meeting was assembled and subsequently canceled underlines the chaotic handling of the legislative process, particularly as it concerned a bill that had not yet been formally introduced.

The draft legislation, known as "The Bill on Excluding Conditional Release for Convicted Pedophiles," could be proposed even after the meeting's cancellation. According to Justice Minister Bence Tuzson, the proposal, if known in detail, would revise current practices on releasing convicted pedophiles, considering the victims’ opinions before making decisions on parole. However, this comes a day after Fidesz parliamentary group leader Máté Kocsis voiced a stricter plan, advocating for no parole in such cases.

The inconsistencies referred to in political and legal terms as "coherence issues" may have led to the delay in submitting the bill by Monday morning, resulting in the cancellation of the committee meeting. However, sources told that this does not rule out the possibility of the bill being presented later Monday, or even being put to a vote on Tuesday.

Initially, the package, which would amend some 20 laws, was to be introduced as a private member's bill by Máté Kocsis of Fidesz, possibly in collaboration with István Simicskó of KDNP, following previous practice. The government coalition would then request an expedited legislative process.

This extraordinary procedure, which can be invoked only four times a year, facilitates the rapid passage of legislation, and importantly, bypasses the eight-day public consultation period typically required. By introducing the law under this procedure on Monday, the Parliament could conduct the debate and final vote by Tuesday. Only one-fifth of the members of Parliament’s signatures are needed to initiate the expedited process, which Fidesz-KDNP can easily secure even without Judit Varga's replacement.

An example of such a fast-track legislative maneuver occurred exactly a year ago, when the government quickly amended a law to minimize the Hungarian Medical Chamber’s authorities. The plan appears to account for the introduction of an unexpected additional session on Tuesday, which for now lists an insignificant agenda.

Despite the cancellation of the committee meeting, Fidesz has not necessarily abandoned the "fast track" strategy. The bill might be introduced not as a private member's initiative but directly by the government, which does not require a committee meeting or separate agenda-setting. Of course, an expedited legislative process can also be requested for government submissions.

An alternative approach could involve invoking a rarely used deviation from the house rules, requiring approval from four-fifths of the members of Parliament, demanding support from opposition MPs, potentially with assistance from the Mi Hazánk faction, who occasionally cooperates with the government.

There’s also the possibility of adding an additional session later in the week and further refining the proposal. Changes to the meeting schedule and the agenda for the two currently planned days can be made up to the point of agenda approval on Monday at 16:20. If necessary, this could lead to a special meeting of the committee.

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