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Parliament adopts revised municipal election law

A revised municipal election law amendment was adopted by the newly formed Slovak parliament on November 4. The elections, originally planned for November 13-14, have now been postponed until December 18-19.
An accompanying constitutional amendment to prolong the term in office of incumbent local officials until the new election date was also approved in abbreviated legislative proceedings.
The municipal elections had to be postponed after a Constitutional Court verdict of October 15, according to which the latest law draft, muscled through the parliament by the cabinet of former Premier Vladimír Mečiar in July, contained six unconstitutional provisions, including a measure to split deputies along ethnic lines.

A revised municipal election law amendment was adopted by the newly formed Slovak parliament on November 4. The elections, originally planned for November 13-14, have now been postponed until December 18-19.

An accompanying constitutional amendment to prolong the term in office of incumbent local officials until the new election date was also approved in abbreviated legislative proceedings.

The municipal elections had to be postponed after a Constitutional Court verdict of October 15, according to which the latest law draft, muscled through the parliament by the cabinet of former Premier Vladimír Mečiar in July, contained six unconstitutional provisions, including a measure to split deputies along ethnic lines.

The country's new opposition, however, claimed that the latest amendment, passed by the government of Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda at the October 31 session of parliament, also carried unconstitutional provisions.

"All things prepared in such haste are likely to contravene the highest legislative norms [the constitution]," said Augustín Marián Húska, Vice-Chairman of the former ruling HZDS party. "We will submit a proposal to the Constitutional Court to study the law and specify the possible unconstitutional provisions."

HZDS deputies also complained that they had not been given enough time to study the law draft. "The draft was not available to parliament on time, which means 24 hours before the vote of approval," said Peter Brňák, a HZDS constitutional expert.

Another opposition complaint concerned the government proposal on shortened legislative proceedings.

According to house rules of debate, the abridged legal process can only be applied in situations in which the civil laws or the state is in danger. "If this law puts anything in danger, it is the interests of the new ruling coalition," said Ján Cuper, HZDS legal expert.

Ruling coalition deputies, however, were delighted that the amendment had been put together in two weeks, and believed that none of its provisions were unconstitutional. "I do not consider the word 'unconstitutional' appropriate," said Ivan Šimko, legal expert with the largest coalition party, the SDK. "We are under time pressure, so I accept without reservations any remarks concerning the wording of several provisions that will have to be clarified," Šimko said before the session of the parliamentary Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee on November 2.

The new amendment also stipulates shortened deadlines for submitting candidate lists (35 days before elections), the setting of election districts and election rooms (28 days), the announcement of candidate lists (24 days), and the beginning of the election campaign (15 days) among other items.

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