NEWS BRIEFS

Constitutional law on direct presidential elections reaches parliament

A group of deputies of the ruling coalition on November 16 delivered to the Slovak parliament a draft constitutional law on direct presidential elections.

The coalition agreed on the final version of the bill on November 13. Coalition constitutional experts Peter Kresák and Ivan Šimko told journalists that the bill contains provisions for the dismissal of president and defines the distribution of powers.

According to the draft, a presidential candidate could be proposed by 15 MPs or by citizens through a petition containing 15,000 signatures. The election would be held in two rounds. In the first round, the support of more than 50% of all voters would be necessary for a president to be elected. If the first round is not successful, two candidates advance to the second round and the winner is the one with more votes. The president is to be sworn in by the chairman of the Constitutional Court and is elected for five-year term.

The blueprint of the law widens the powers of the head of the state by giving him the authority to dissolve parliament, and requires that some laws be cosigned by the sitting president. According to the bill, the president can exercise the power of veto over laws that have the support of fewer than 90 pf 150 deputies.

Presidents can be dismissed if they seriously breach the constitution or commit high treason. The president can be dismissed by the Constitutional Court based on a proposal of parliament, or parliament itself can force a referendum on dismissal with a 90 vote majority.

Slovakia has been without an elected head of state since March of this year when the presidential term of Michal Kováč ended. Presidential powers are now divided between the prime minister and the speaker of parliament.

Direct presidential elections could take place in late February or early March 1999.

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