This paper aims to determine where the Hungarian civil service system might be situated on an imaginary merit system – spoils system scale. In doing so, the Hungarian system is analyzed from two angles. Firstly, regulation is scrutinized as it is manifested in the Civil Service Act. Secondly, practice is examined relying on available statistical and survey data. The author argues that, contrary to the conclusions of most of scholarly publications, the Hungarian Law is a pseudo-merit system law, not in fact preventing the prevalence of a spoils system. Practice generally reveals, however, features of a modestly politicized system with signs of increasing professionalization. The last two sections investigate the potential explanations for these somewhat surprising findings and whether the findings for the Hungarian civil service may be generalized to some or most of the Central and East European countries.

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