The Hungarian constitution: Interview with Kim Lane Scheppele

Budapest Beacon, a bilingual online newspaper that reports on current events in Hungary, conducted a number of interviews with leading Hungarian analysts living or temporarily working in the United States. Readers of Hungarian Spectrum were already able to see three of these interviews. The first featured Charles Gati, a political scientist and senior research professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The second was conducted with Miklós Haraszti, a writer, human rights advocate, and fomer OSCE representative on Freedom of the Media. The third video was with me.

Now I’m happy to present the fourth interview, this time with Kim Lane Scheppele, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values as well as Director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University. I don’t have to introduce Kim Scheppele to most readers of Hungarian Spectrum.  She has been a regular contributor to, reader of, and commenter on this site. She is an expert on Hungarian constitutional law who has performed invaluable service to democratic Hungary. Many of her studies were republished on Hungarian Spectrum and can be found in the website’s archives.

The interviewer is Benjamin Novak, an American Hungarian who currently lives in Hungary and is senior correspondent of Budapest Beacon. 



  1. Kudos to Prof. Scheppele.

    She is most “dangerous” kind of foreign observer. Fidesz is terrified of this rare species.

    Not only does Prof. Scheppele, as a non-Hungarian, care, she thoroughly, perhaps better than anybody (well, besides Prof. Balogh) understands the machinations, the bullshitting, the legal manipulations Fidesz was so successful at selling abroad.

    One more thing to add, though. Constitutional lawyers as well as Brussels bureaucrats analyze the system or parts of it in abstract terms. Fidesz, however, made sure to pack all important state organizations (constitutional court, courts, prosecution, election committee, media authority etc.) with its party loyalists. Even if there was a change in government and the democratic opposition could somehow win, its hands would be fundamentally tied given the personal network of the entrenched fideszniks and their loyalty to Orban.

  2. There are two possible reasons why that wouldn’ matter.
    1. When the money that keeps them on the teets of the state, runs out, they will run out too, having lost the reason to continue staying.
    2. The inevitable threat of retribution will make it very easy to remove them. Particularly those sitting so smugly in their nine and tvelve year appointments. When they will be offered the options of staying and being charged, or leaving while they can, even the stupidest of the lot will realize which side is up.
    Consider, for example the chief prosecutor, or the leader of the judicial office: although they may think to be unassailable in their position, but after receiving the phone call, they must have a sober moment to measure up their chances against an outraged reconstituted democracy.

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