Top Hungarian Seeks to Entrench Democratic Reforms


WHEN Alman Kulcsar speaks, he sounds like an American Founding Father. As Hungary's minister of justice, he is in charge of drafting a new constitution which will transform a one-party communist state into a Western-style democracy. (Free parliamentary elections are scheduled for next year.) At the same time, Mr. Kulcsar wants to create a Bill of Rights and separation of powers - American style. To help guide him, he keeps a copy of the US Constitution by his desk. In his baroque office, the courteous minister speaks of his country's plans for democracy:

What model do you envisage for the new constitution?

We have studied all the processes in Europe of the transformation from an authoritarian to a democratic political system: Spain, Portugal, Finland, Italy, Germany. Our political cultures aren't the same, but we have some common elements.

What is the Soviet reaction to these dramatic changes?

The Soviet Union is not in a position to cause too many problems here. In September, I was invited to speak to the Soviet justice minister and made it clear to him what type of legislation we were preparing. He was interested in our ideas.

It's not the same situation as some years ago, when they gave orders. Put yourself in their position. They want to see how political reform works in a small country, what problems we face.

Are there any limits to how far you can go?

The question of the Warsaw Pact is important to the Soviets. Nobody here questions the Warsaw Pact. We know our geopolitical situation. Some people talk about neutrality. They aren't serious. But neutrality doesn't depend on Hungary: It depends on the superpowers.

Should the United States and the Soviet Union negotiate about East Europe's future?

They will negotiate. It is inevitable. We have to solve in common the problem of Central, East Central Europe. There is a great transformation going on in Hungary and Poland and some signs of change in Czechoslovakia. But the situation is not balanced. There are great differences between a Romania and a Poland. Since the two superpowers share global responsibility, this [destabilizing] situation has to be of great interest to them.

Will the superpowers let you construct a Western-style democracy? The international context rarely has been so favorable to real change. That is why we must move fast and have the new Constitution accepted. Who knows how long this exceptional situation will last? If you have a developed, formally elaborated, institutionally built-up democratic system, it is an important guarantee against going backward.

Do the events in China alarm you? Could there be a hard-line backlash here?

I didn't think they would use force against the students. I thought they would take into consideration the attitude of the West. I don't think the same thing could happen here. Some people consider this a possibility. But these people are retired, old men without prestige.

Is the Communist Party ready to give up power?

Yes. Lots of things happening now in Hungary never have been done before.

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