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TRNKA TURNS TO COURT AGAIN; ČENTÉŠ SHREDS DOCUMENT IN ERROR

Drama around top prosecutor continues

JUST when it seemed that the only hurdle in Jozef Čentéš’s path to become the country’s next prosecutor general was the reluctance of Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič to officially appoint him, the winning candidate of the ruling coalition from a secret ballot held in July has nevertheless created some new complications on his own. Though Čentéš called the shredding of a document in his possession a human error, the careless blunder has added some strong wind to the sails of his opponents.

JUST when it seemed that the only hurdle in Jozef Čentéš’s path to become the country’s next prosecutor general was the reluctance of Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič to officially appoint him, the winning candidate of the ruling coalition from a secret ballot held in July has nevertheless created some new complications on his own. Though Čentéš called the shredding of a document in his possession a human error, the careless blunder has added some strong wind to the sails of his opponents.

Last month Dobroslav Trnka argued that his basic right for equal access to be re-elected as General Prosecutor had been violated and he sought redress from the Constitutional Court. Trnka said the results of the May 17 vote were calculated incorrectly and that parliament should have declared him the winner and submitted a proposal to the president for his re-appointment to the post.

In the May 17 vote, Trnka won the support of 70 of the 150 present MPs, 17 voted against him, 29 abstained from the vote and there were 34 invalid votes. The results also meant that Iveta Radičová remained as prime minister since before the vote she had expressed strong opposition to Trnka’s re-election and went so far as to promise that she would resign if it happened. Trnka, who submitted his complaint to the court on July 14 as a private individual, asserts that parliament should not have taken into consideration the 34 invalid ballots and thus he had collected the majority of the valid votes.

Trnka, who had withdrawn his candidacy for the July 17 vote in which Čentéš was elected, also challenged that vote, arguing that parliament had not respected the decision of the Constitutional Court, which had ruled that the vote on a new general prosecutor was permissible only after the court had decided on the merits of the case before it: whether parliament had the constitutional authority to change the balloting from a secret vote to a public, recorded vote.

Trnka’s complaint has been assigned to a Constitutional Court judge for review and Trnka was tight-lipped about his complaint.

“I do not see any reason why I should comment on my complaint in the media,” Trnka said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “The Constitutional Court will be deciding about the complaint.”

The ruling coalition had gone to considerable lengths to turn the previously-used secret ballot for choosing a general prosecutor into a recorded vote. But the Constitutional Court, in a decision published on April 20 in response to a case brought by Trnka himself, ruled that his constitutional rights had been violated during two of the parliamentary votes held last year.

According to the court, the violations occurred in those votes in which MPs revealed how they had voted in the secret ballot by photographing their ballots or openly declaring who they had supported. The court ruled that by doing so, the deputies violated the basic principles of a secret ballot and had violated Trnka’s rights. That is why parliament held another secret ballot on May 17, which Trnka now claims he won.

Čentéš opens gates for criticism

Meanwhile, Čentéš further stirred the waters through an incident that involved independent MP Igor Matovič of the Ordinary People faction. Matovič testified twice at the prosecutor’s office because the record of his first testimony was deleted from the office computer and the hard copy was shredded. Matovič was testifying on August 29 about his claims of large-scale corruption on the part of parliamentary parties and their political nominations for government positions. The management of the Prosecutor General’s Office had released information about what had apparently happened.

While Čentéš stated that the shredding of the document was a human error, the opposition Smer party responded that Čentéš had erased testimony which could have been damaging for parties in the ruling coalition. But both Čentéš and Matovič have stated that the questions and responses in both testimonies were identical.

The deputy chairman of Smer, Pavol Paška, stated that Čentéš should consider resigning.

“I’m convinced that regardless of whether or not the president appoints Čentéš, he is an absolutely untrustworthy person,” Paška stated, as quoted by TASR, adding that the governing coalition should consider whether this is a person who should stand at the helm of an important democratic institution.

Čentéš said he would not comment on statements made by politicians and stressed that he has no intention of hiding anything or shredding anything.

“This was a human error, about which I already informed my superior as well as the Prosecutor Office's press department,” Čentéš told TASR.

Matovič, as well as Tibor Šumichrast, the director of the penal department at the Prosecutor General’s Office, supported Čentéš’s version of what happened. Šumichrast, according to the Sme daily, confirmed that the shredding happened by mistake.

“I do not see anything bad behind it,” Šumichrast said, as quoted by Sme.

Matovič said that the incident should not be used against Čentéš.

“The questioning took place in a professional manner,” Matovič said. “My impressions were very good and there was no feeling of manipulation.”

Last month Matovič raised the issue of partisan nominations by the political parties to government positions and alleged that after his faction promised to publish a list of these partisan nominees, his Ordinary People faction was threatened by one of the ruling coalition parties. The party, he said, threatened to support mass lawsuits brought against his faction by the named nominees.

“I am accusing of corruption all the political parties which gained more than 3 percent in the elections,” Matovič stated to the media on July 18.

He went on to say that the parties are abusing their power to nominate persons to public offices in order to reward their sponsors and people who have distributed flyers on their behalf, stating that the professional qualifications of the nominees were not considered.

The Ordinary People leader said he considers partisan nominations as corrupt behaviour, adding that though the current coalition has been trying to combat what he called the “brutal” corruption that existed under the government of Robert Fico, the parties of the coalition are still involved in a kind of corruption through their political nominations, while trying to present it as normal practice, the SITA newswire wrote.

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