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Case closed: Gaulieder out

"The Prime Minister's party and its allies have made an historic decision, whether they know it or not. They have chosen raw power...and ended the rule of law in Slovakia."
U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Chairman of U.S. OSCE Commission Ignoring the Constitutional Court's verdict, deputies from the ruling coalition voted on September 30 not to let their ex-colleague František Gaulieder reassume his seat, prompting pan-European bodies to recommend dropping Slovakia completely from the list of countries being considered for accession to the European Union.
Out of 147 deputies, 68 voted in favor of Gaulieder's comeback, 42 voted against, 33 abstained and four, including Parliament Speaker Ivan Gašparovič, didn't vote.
The special session was repeatedly requested by opposition MPs who insisted Gaulieder's absence from the chamber was unconstitutional.


"The Prime Minister's party and its allies have made an historic decision, whether they know it or not. They have chosen raw power...and ended the rule of law in Slovakia."

U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Chairman of U.S. OSCE Commission



Dead on arrival. This funeral hearse came to the Hotel Danube in Bratislava for a reason. It carted off a man shot dead in the hotel's bar.
Nový Čas

Ignoring the Constitutional Court's verdict, deputies from the ruling coalition voted on September 30 not to let their ex-colleague František Gaulieder reassume his seat, prompting pan-European bodies to recommend dropping Slovakia completely from the list of countries being considered for accession to the European Union.

Out of 147 deputies, 68 voted in favor of Gaulieder's comeback, 42 voted against, 33 abstained and four, including Parliament Speaker Ivan Gašparovič, didn't vote.

The special session was repeatedly requested by opposition MPs who insisted Gaulieder's absence from the chamber was unconstitutional.

The vote on Gaulieder followed a July decision by the Constitutional Court, according to which Gaulieder's constitutional rights had been violated when deputies from the leading ruling coalition party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), led a drive to vote him out of the assembly last December. But HZDS deputies, ironically Gaulieder's former party mates, declared that the Constitutional Court's decision was politically manipulated and refused to respect it.

"The Constitutional Court had no right to decide in the Gaulieder case," said Peter Brňák, a HZDS deputy and chairman of parliament's Legal and Constitution Committee in an interview for the pro-government Slovenská Republika daily, which carried the interview under the headline "The Constitutional Court tried to rape the constitution; The rights of ex-deputy Gaulieder were not violated."

Reactions

The vote was closely-watched by officials in pan-European institutions, who are now on the verge of sealing Slovakia off from membership in the European Union.

"Slovakia doesn't fulfill the political conditions required of future EU members," the European Commission (EC) in Brussels baldly stated on October 1, citing the Gaulieder vote as an example.

Two days later, the European Parliament supported the EC-suggested model of opening accession talks with all European applicants but Slovakia. European states will make a final decision in December.

Back home, many legal experts were stunned to see parliament bluntly ignoring the Constitutional Court.


Last straw. František Gaulieder has run out of options to get back his seat in parliament he says he unjustly lost.
Vladimír Hák

"This is a catastrophe," said Marián Prusák, professor of Constitutional law at the Comenius University's Faculty of Law in Bratislava. "This is the end of the rule of law in Slovakia," he added, unwittingly sharing the opinion of a leading U.S. lawmaker.

"The Prime Minister's [Vladimír Mečiar's HZDS] party and its allies in the ruling coalition have made a historic decision, whether they know it or not," said Senator Alfonse D'Amato, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. "They have chosen raw power over constitutional order and law. By disposing of Mr. Gaulieder as they did, they have reduced their country's constitution to a 'recommendation' and ended the rule of law in Slovakia."

"Vladimír Mečiar and the current Slovak government have thus deprived the Slovak people of all of their rights, because when power rules instead of law, rights become privileges and citizens become subjects of the powerful," D'Amato concluded.

One day before the vote, D'Amato warned it was crucial that Slovakia shows it is committed to becoming a functioning, constitutional democracy. "If it is not [committed], what it will become is an isolated state under constant international pressure and scrutiny, cut off from a promising and prosperous future by the arrogance and greed of its own leaders." Gaulieder was voted out of parliament after he publicly criticized his party, the HZDS, and its leader, Mečiar, for steering the country away from democracy and the rule of law, and after resigning from the HZDS's parliamentary club.

Retaliating against Gaulieder's criticism and his resignation, the HZDS and its two coalition parties announced that Gaulieder had penned a letter in which he gave up his parliamentary seat. Gaulieder repeatedly denied that he wrote or signed the letter and stressed he intended to retain his mandate.

Nevertheless, at a stormy session in parliament on December 4, 1996, the coalition yanked Gaulieder from his seat and swore in his replacement, Ján Belan.

At that time, Belan was being prosecuted for seriously harming a woman in a car crash while under the influence of alcohol.

But it seem as if members of the HZDS are more content with that character sketch than with Gaulieder's personality. "Gaulieder has a rubber hose instead of a spine," said Dušan Macuška, a HZDS deputy, referring to a written promise that Gaulieder, along with over fifty other HZDS deputies, allegedly signed before the 1994 elections, affirming they would have to leave parliament if they broke from the party line.

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