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OUSTED GAULIEDER LOOKS TO MPS AFTER CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING

Will he get back in?

The Constitutional Court ruled on July 24 that coalition deputies in the Slovak Parliament violated the Constitution when they booted out František Gaulieder, a former deputy of Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), last December. But Gaulieder's return to his seat in the assembly is far from being definitive, as the court left it up to those same deputies who kicked him out in the first place to decide whether to let him back in.
After the ruling was made public, Gaulieder said his primary goal was to reclaim his seat. "I assume that soon I will pick up my deputy ID card again," he said, adding that upon his return he will join "a party within the Slovak Democratic Coalition," a recently established bloc uniting all opposition parties in parliament except for the Hungarian coalition (MK) and the Party for the Democratic Left (SDĽ).


František Gaulieder is hoping fellow MPs will vote him back on top of the hill.
Michal Bak

The Constitutional Court ruled on July 24 that coalition deputies in the Slovak Parliament violated the Constitution when they booted out František Gaulieder, a former deputy of Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), last December. But Gaulieder's return to his seat in the assembly is far from being definitive, as the court left it up to those same deputies who kicked him out in the first place to decide whether to let him back in.

After the ruling was made public, Gaulieder said his primary goal was to reclaim his seat. "I assume that soon I will pick up my deputy ID card again," he said, adding that upon his return he will join "a party within the Slovak Democratic Coalition," a recently established bloc uniting all opposition parties in parliament except for the Hungarian coalition (MK) and the Party for the Democratic Left (SDĽ).

That may not be easy, though. On the one hand, the three-member Constitutional Court Senate ruled that parliament violated Gaulieder's constitutional right by approving a document which took away his mandate. However, the court declined to deal with the second part of Gaulieder's plea that asked the court to directly reinstall him in the chamber, meaning his fate rests upon the goodwill of his former fellow coalition deputies, who hold a majority in the chamber.

Explaining the decision, Ján Kľučka, one of the three justices who issued the verdict, said the court lacks any enforcement tools to push its will onto parliament. His colleague, Richard Rapant, however, warned: "If parliament ignores the court's decision, it would contradict the principles of a democratic and legal state."

Some of them aren't heeding the call. "I will not vote for Gaulieder's return to parliament," Dušan Macuška, a HZDS deputy, told Radio Twist. "I don't think that there will be any change in this issue, although I can't tell what the other deputies' views are on this."

"Most probably we'll be voting the same way we did in the first vote," Marián Andel, the parliament's vice-speaker and honorary chairman of the Slovak National Party (SNS), a junior coalition partner, told Slovak Radio.

Ján Čarnogurský, leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) said it was sad that the court refused to deal with the second part of Gaulieder's plea. "I believe that the court had every right to rule on that matter, and it's only logical that if Gaulieder's expulsion from parliament violated the constitution, then Gaulieder is legally still the chamber's deputy."

On December 4, 1996, parliament passed a resolution sanctioning a resignation letter in which Gaulieder allegedly gave up his mandate. But Gaulieder denies that fact, repeatedly saying that the letter was forged.

Despite also saying he wanted to keep his seat, his coalition colleagues expelled him by a 59 to 18 vote. The opposition refused to participate in the vote.

Throughout the whole Gaulieder affair, the Slovak government has weathered repeated volleys of criticism from the European Parliament, European Commission, U.S. Congress, and various representatives of EU and NATO member states.

Gaulieder sounded a little bitter about the court's delay in ruling, saying that the institution had all the evidence it needed to issue a verdict as early as last January. He said that the delay further traumatized Slovak society, but admitted that the court's role wasn't the easiest. "The court was under tremendous pressure from the ruling coalition," Gaulieder said.

"The court issued an inconsistent ruling again," KDH's Čarnogurský, a lawyer, insisted. It was the second time in two months Čarnogurský has criticized the court's ambivalence, the former being the court's ruling on the late May referendum on NATO accession and the direct presidential election, which the government seized upon to legally justify its printing of separate ballots, thus marring the public vote.

Ján Belan, who replaced Gaulieder in the assembly, said he didn't think that Gaulieder was booted out wrongfully. "Ask the court one more time," he said. "My opinion is that it will be parliament's decision."

Whether the chamber will accept or ignore the ruling will be clear in the last week of August, when deputies are supposed to vote on reinstalling Gaulieder in the assembly.

POSS ADDS

It depends solely on the good will of the same coalition deputies who kicked Gaulieder out back in December. Saying that Premier Vladimír Mečiar could have spared himself one international scandal, Gaulieder added: "The ruling is yet another link in the chain of [Mečiar's] defeats."

Čarnogurský went as far as saying that ignoring the court's ruling in the chamber would mean a total breakdown of legal state in Slovakia. "If someone else occupied Gaulieder's seat after the court's ruling, it would make all following votes in the chamber invalid," he said.

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