Hungary government to curb powers of constitutional court

Hungary's government is set to curb the powers of the country's constitutional court, after the body thwarted plans to introduce a controversial law on electoral procedures.

According to a set of constitutional amendments proposed by the government on Monday, the court will no longer be able to refer to judgements prior to January 1, 2012 when a new constitution, called the "Basic Law", came into force.

Nor will the court be able to judge on the actual content of new amendments, only on their technical legality.

The amendments will be voted on during the parliament's latest session which opened Monday.

The Basic Law replaced the previous constitution, deemed a relic of Hungary's communist era by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's governing right-wing coalition which swept into power in 2010 with a two-thirds majority.

In a rare blow for Orban, who has been accused since 2010 of dismantling institutions capable of checking his power, the court annulled last month a controversial set of electoral law reforms written into the Basic Law in a previous constitutional amendment.

Critics said several of the provisions in the electoral law were designed to tilt the approaching 2014 elections in favour of the government.

These included obligatory registration for voters in advance of elections as well as restrictions on campaign advertising.

Analysts said both measures would lead to lower turnout on election day, increasing the chances of the government retaining power.

The court ruled in January, however, that the measures restricted the rights of voters to an "unjustifiable degree".