Hungary was the last state in Europe after the fall of communism that had not yet established a Constitution. At last, since April 18, it has one. But instead of being a post-communist, democratic Constitution it is an antediluvian document: an anthology of discrimination against human beings.
The preamble to the text is a foretaste of worse to come. It is titled Profession of National Faith and starts with a patriotic verse dating from the 19th century, which calls on God to bless the Hungarians.
But the invocation of the Almighty - the Christian one, needless to say - is no more than a modest prologue. The text restricts the right to vote for persons suffering from "limited mental capacities," and proclaims the intangibility of life from the moment of fertilization, suggesting that the days of the country's existing abortion law are numbered. Also, a marital union deserving of the protection of the state, understands only that made between a man and a woman.
Hungary has, however, signed the European Convention on Human Rights, and the EU's Charter of Fundamental Human Rights, and is just now taking its turn in the rotating presidency of the European Union.
In directly political matters, the authoritarianism of the text is no less objectionable, as when it limits the Constitutional Court's capacity to rule on budgetary matters, thereby violating the separation of powers by placing the executive above the judicial and legislative branches of government.
The Fidesz party of the prime minister, Viktor Orban, controls almost three-quarters of the seats in parliament. This is why the text was passed by a landslide majority, with the 262 votes of the governing party against 44 in a parliamentary session boycotted by the Social Democrats and the Liberals.
Under a government that has the audacity to call itself center-right, Hungary has begun walking down a road about which the EU ought to have something to say. Milestones on this road have been repeated aggressions against the Gypsy community, the entering into effect of a law that hobbles the news media, and a very negative attitude to immigration and political asylum.
In an extreme distortion of the known facts of history, the Constitution also declares the Hungarian people innocent of the crimes committed by the state between the Nazi occupation of 1944 and the end of communism in 1990. Orban and his adherents thus exonerate themselves of any complicity in the persecution that Admiral Horthy - the Hungarian head of state at the time, an authoritarian rightist figure comparable to Marshal Pétain in France - unleashed against the Jews in the final months of World War II.
What we are looking at here is a case of outrageous, retrograde chauvinism.