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Expectations of Greater Role for Parliament

June 10, 1985

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ Hungarians have used a liberal new election law to send about two dozen independent members to Parliament, which the ruling Communist Party appears to be encouraging to exercise more of its legal power.

Former deputy Zoltan Szep, who had been the only member in the one-house Parliament without official backing, said Monday that the election shows the party is promoting a more active role for Parliament, which usually meets only for one or two days, four times a year, to approve party plans.

″Parliament is like High Mass,″ said Szep, who was elected in 1971 and did not run this time. ″Representatives stand up, read their prepared speeches, regardless of whether someone else has made the same points 25 times before or not.″

But now, he said, ″the party expects Parliament to act more independently, although it is unlikely that the instructions of the party will be rejected.″

Szep is a member of the party, which instructed him not to seek re- election.

Saturday’s election was the first under a 1983 law, unique in the Soviet bloc, that made multiple candidacies compulsory for 352 of Parliament’s 387 seats and thousands of local council positions. Unofficial candidates have been permitted since the 1970s, but only Szep was elected.

Thirty-five seats are reserved for ranking party and government leaders. All others who sought places on the ballot had to be approved at local meetings.

The Patriotic People’s Front, a Communist-dominated mass organization, nominated two official candidates at each meeting.

It had not expected a challenge, but people at the meetings voted 71 unofficial candidates onto the ballot. The government says about one-third of them beat Front candidates in the elections, but the precise number has not yet been announced.

Like Szep, many of the unofficial members are party members.

Four dissidents tried for nominations and one fell only 67 votes short at his local meeting. Their supporters charged that the meetings were rigged and called Parliament a toothless institution that is subservient to the party.

The leadership describes both the elections and Parliament as democratic. The Front’s general secretary, Imre Pozsgay, told reporters Sunday the voter turnout of 94 percent showed that ″the people see the regime as legitimate, except for an infinitely small section.″

Szep was reluctant to speak against the party in an interview, but criticized Parliament as too timid.

″The party influences Parliament, but does not control it either legally or technically to the degree in which Parliament is subservient,″ he said.

Szep, 42, is a lawyer by training. He lost his sight in the 1960s and now draws a disability pension.

Parliament has gradually become less passive since the Communists took power in 1947, but remains ineffective because members do not take advantage of their legal rights, he said.

″Parliament meets four times a year but there is no rule that it can assemble only four times annually, it could meet 14 times if it wanted to,″ he said. ″It can appoint a commission to examine any subject, it can dismiss ministers or members of the Presidential Council. It can act in lot of ways it hasn’t been doing.″

Most nominees and 77 percent of those elected are Communist Party members.

Asked whether being in the party and also a member of Parliament could cause divided loyalties, Szep said:

″I never experienced that the party tried to control me during my term, but of course they did tell me not to run again at the end of it.″

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