Saved by the bell. Michal Sýkora, head of the Association of Towns and Villages (ZMOS) welcomes court decision.
According to an October 15 Constitutional Court verdict, six of seven provisions in the current municipal election law violate the constitution.
The four parties of the former opposition that formed the country's new government on October 30 agreed to press ahead urgently with modifying the constitution so that elections can go ahead. The necessary changes would require prolonging the terms in office for incumbent local representatives, as well as shortening the period necessary for submission of new candidate lists.
"It's not a good solution at all, but it's the least problematic one," said Eduard Barány, Director of the State and Law Department at the Slovak Academy of Science and head of the central election commission for the municipal ballot. "It is essential that the election period be extended only as long as necessary for the technical and organisational preparation of elections, so that any political and power temptations would be avoided," Barány explained.
Municipal government officials advised that the elections should be held soon because the municipalities had already started their local campaigns. Significant delays, they claimed, could reduce the number of voters participating in the vote. "The situation has to be solved with the use of extraordinary measures and in the quickest possible time," said Michal Sýkora, chairman of the Slovak Association of Municipalities (ZMOS) at an October 21 press conference.
Sýkora stated that prolonging the terms in office of current municipal officials until the law could be amended in a full length legal procedure was far more risky than applying spit and polish to the current law's provisions and forging ahead with elections before the end of the year. "Towns and villages are totally committed to the preparation of elections these days, the campaign is running and all citizens are expecting the elections to be held," Sýkora said.
"If everything goes fine, the constitution amendment could be approved within 48 hours," said Ivan Šimko, legal expert of the ruling SDK party. Šimko explained that the newly formed government would have to propose abbreviated legal proceedings to have the law approved during Parliament's first official session. "Close cooperation of the government and Parliament is vital," Šimko stressed.
Sýkora maintained that the parties of the former ruling coalition, former Premier Vladimír Mečiar's HZDS and the far-right SNS party, would support the amendment of the constitution in Parliament. "It could be said that the entire political spectrum is convinced that this solution [proposed by ZMOS and the parties of the former opposition] makes sense and is likely to be widely supported," Sýkora added. HZDS and SNS deputies have promised to support the necessary changes.
The municipal election law was amended by the Mečiar government in July, and was then appealed by a group of deputies of the former opposition parties on August 7. The Constitutional Court ruling objected particularly to provisions in the law for dividing municipal councillors along ethnic lines and for transferring powers to staff municipal election commissions to state administration bodies.
2. Nov 1998 at 0:00 | Ivan Remiaš