THE LEADER of the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party and newly elected Speaker of Parliament Richard Sulík said that President Ivan Gašparovič did all he could to cause the referendum initiated by SaS to fail. Sulík further charged that Gašparovič made no effort to reduce the costs of the referendum.
“We will do everything possible for a successful outcome of the popular vote,” Sulík said, as quoted by the SITA newswire, adding that the campaign leading up to the ballot will last six weeks and will be coordinated by an experienced person.
Sulík blames the high costs of the referendum exclusively on the head of the state. He said he believes that the president could have acted as a statesman, adding that his party regrets the behaviour of the president.
Sulík said that even though the outcome of the vote will be binding, his party will make an effort in parliament to pre-emptively enact the section of the referendum aimed at cancelling politicians’ immunity from prosecution. The speaker said he considers the ballot an excellent back-up plan. If opposition MPs don’t vote to curb their immunity, it can still be effected through the referendum process.
The chairman of the referendum petition committee, Robert Mistrík, said, as reported by SITA, that the president de facto thwarted the referendum and complicated its chances for passage. To become law a referendum must attract a turnout of at least 50 percent of all registered voters, but the president set the referendum for a date which did not coincide with any other votes or elections.
President Gašparovič rejected Sulík’s accusations, calling them “stupid”.
“I express regret that the new speaker of parliament starts a confrontation with the president in this way,” Gašparovič said.
The petition committee had suggested that the ballot should take place on the same day as the June parliamentary elections, or the municipal elections due later this year. Mistrík noted that the committee wanted to consult with the president in January as to whether he planned to contest the issues of the vote at the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic but Gašparovič declined the offer and set the date of the referendum as September 18. The referendum features propositions regarding the cancellation of licence fees paid by the public to fund public broadcasters, curbs to MPs’ immunity from prosecution, a reduction in the number of parliamentary deputies, a ceiling on the price paid for government limousines, internet voting and changes to the Press Code.