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Still no end in sight to prosecutor saga

JOZEF Čentéš, who was elected by parliament to be Slovakia’s next general prosecutor on June 7, 2011, and has been waiting ever since for President Ivan Gašparovič to appoint him to the post, will have to wait some more, despite a long-awaited Constitutional Court ruling on the saga.

JOZEF Čentéš, who was elected by parliament to be Slovakia’s next general prosecutor on June 7, 2011, and has been waiting ever since for President Ivan Gašparovič to appoint him to the post, will have to wait some more, despite a long-awaited Constitutional Court ruling on the saga.

Slovakia’s president said that he would wait for all the verdicts of the Constitutional Court pertaining to the appointment of Čentéš to be delivered and only then make his decision. Čentéš was elected in a ballot whose legitimacy was confirmed by the Constitutional Court earlier this year.
“Let’s not forget that there is a complaint filed by Čentéš himself, who asked the Constitutional Court to say whether his constitutional rights had been violated,” Marek Trubač, the president’s spokesperson, said on October 28 during a political talk show on Slovak Television (STV), adding that only after that decision would the “appropriate time-frame” for the president’s response begin.
The Constitutional Court on October 24, 2012, ruled that the president of Slovakia must “deal with” a proposal of parliament to appoint a new general prosecutor based on the 150th article of the Slovak constitution, and that if the candidate was elected in accordance with the law the president must either appoint him/her “within an appropriate time-frame” or inform parliament of his refusal to do so.

According to the Constitutional Court, the president can refuse to appoint a candidate only if the candidate does not meet the legal requirements for the office or there are “grave reasons” that cast doubt on the candidate’s ability to perform the job in a way that does not harm the authority of the institution of general prosecutor. When rejecting an appointment the president “shall list reasons for not appointing the candidate, and these reasons cannot be arbitrary”, the court ruled.

Trubač stated that on June 17, 2011, parliament “only elected” a candidate for appointment to the post of general prosecutor who, according to the constitution, is appointed by the president. This, according to Trubač, means “that he/she appoints him or does not appoint him”.

In fact the Constitutional Court has already set a date for the session that is expected to hear Čentéš’ complaint: November 20, the TASR newswire reported, citing court spokesperson Anna Pančurová.

Čentéš filed his complaint in November 2011, asserting that his fundamental rights were violated when he was denied the right to take up the office of general prosecutor even though he was legally elected to the post by parliament.

“In fact I was objecting to his reluctance to act,” Čentéš responded to the statements released by the president, calling the situation “absurd”, as reported by the Sme daily. “If he had acted, my complaint would have been pointless.”

Čentéš has argued that there is no reason preventing the president from appointing him to the post within a couple of days or weeks, at most, since his election was legitimate and any “hesitation only prolongs the current, in my opinion, unconstitutional, state”.

It is a pity that the Constitutional Court’s ruling in the case of Čentéš leaves room for several interpretations, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico told public broadcaster Slovak Radio (SRo) on October 27, adding that this has resulted in a media war over what the president can and cannot do.

“Everything is in the hands of the president now,” Fico said, adding that the Constitutional Court had bestowed upon the president quite a broad range of options and he is now waiting for the president to make his move.

The term of the last general prosecutor, Dobroslav Trnka, expired in February 2011, but it took until June of that year for parliament to finally elect his replacement, Jozef Čentéš. However, Gašparovič has since refused to appoint Čentéš, despite a Constitutional Court ruling in October 2011 that his election had been entirely constitutional. Trnka’s former deputy, Ladislav Tichý, is currently the acting general prosecutor, with Trnka, who was one of the candidates competing with Čentéš for the top job, now working as Tichý’s unelected deputy.

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