NEW NAME EMERGES AFTER LAST-MINUTE DECISION: JOZEF ČENTÉŠ

Ruling coalition agrees joint candidate for general prosecutor

AFTER weeks of tension the four parties that make up Slovakia’s ruling coalition left it until the very last minute to pick a joint candidate for general prosecutor. Jozef Čentéš, currently a deputy director of the penal department at the Office of the General Prosecutor, is the coalition leaders’ compromise choice to challenge incumbent Dobroslav Trnka in a parliamentary vote on December 2.

PM Iveta Radičová announced the nomination on November 22.PM Iveta Radičová announced the nomination on November 22. (Source: Sme - Vladimír ŠImíček)

AFTER weeks of tension the four parties that make up Slovakia’s ruling coalition left it until the very last minute to pick a joint candidate for general prosecutor. Jozef Čentéš, currently a deputy director of the penal department at the Office of the General Prosecutor, is the coalition leaders’ compromise choice to challenge incumbent Dobroslav Trnka in a parliamentary vote on December 2.

Only 15 minutes before the deadline to submit candidates – 18:00 on Monday, November 22, when parliament’s filing room was due to close – the ruling coalition announced that it had reached a decision about whom to support in the December 2 vote to choose the next general prosecutor.

The final decision was preceded by a tense day: coalition leaders met in the morning for two hours to discuss proposed names. Peter Sepéši had been put forward by Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), while Most-Híd had suggested Jozef Szabó. But those talks ended without agreement. After a five-hour adjournment, the leaders reconvened and later announced a surprise choice: a previously undisclosed candidate, Jozef Čentéš.

“The names that resonated in this round were the names of experts, not political nominations,” Prime Minister Iveta Radičová told journalists, saying that Čentéš was the candidate of the whole coalition. The heads of the parliamentary caucuses of all four ruling coalition parties confirmed this by jointly submitting Čentéš’ nomination to the filing room.


Who is Čentéš


Čentéš has been described by the coalition leaders as a compromise choice after tough negotiations, but also as the best choice of all the nominees for the post.

“We searched for a morally untainted person with a good position,” Radičová said, as quoted by the TASR newswire, adding that Čentéš fulfils that condition. She supported her statement by saying that he had recently been appointed a member of the government’s Legislative Council.

Čentéš currently serves as the head of the penal department at the Office of the General Prosecutor (GP). He has specialised in drug-related crime. He started his career as a prosecutor in 1992, and joined the GP at the end of the 1990s under then-general prosecutor Milan Hanzel. Čentéš also lectures on penal law at the Pan European University in Bratislava. According to the Sme daily, he is not on friendly terms with the current general prosecutor, Dobroslav Trnka.


Trnka still in contention


Trnka will run for re-election against Čentéš in the December 2 secret ballot in parliament. He was proposed on November 22 by opposition Smer MP Mojmír Mamojka, although he had previously failed to be selected during a round of voting which took place in early November.

At that time, the ruling coalition suffered a blow and observers doubted its stability when Radičová’s party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), failed to agree with the other coalition parties on a common candidate.

Parliament then failed to select any of the original three candidates for general prosecutor in a first secret ballot on November 3. After third-placed candidate Ján Hrivnák, nominated by the SDKÚ, had been eliminated, Trnka, supported by Smer and the Slovak National Party (SNS), and Mária Mišíková, backed by the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), SaS and Most-Híd, faced each other in a run-off on November 4. However, SDKÚ MPs then blocked both of the remaining two candidates by registering for the ballot but not casting any votes, thus ensuring that neither Trnka nor Mišíková received a majority among those MPs present.

Despite all the SDKÚ’s MPs saying that they ultimately voted against Trnka staying in the job, it had been an SDKÚ MP, Stanislav Janiš, who in a surprise move originally proposed Trnka for the post. Janiš said he backed Trnka because of his progress in cases tackling organised crime, but the MP’s move led to speculation about other possible motives and about possible splits within the SDKÚ. Radičová even suggested that if Trnka was re-elected, she would consider resigning.

The heads of the parliamentary caucuses of all four ruling coalition parties say that all their MPs will vote for Čentéš in the December 2 secret ballot. If this happens, Čentéš will be selected.

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