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No new prosecutor lined up yet

EVEN though earlier in January Prime Minister Robert Fico responded to the decision of President Ivan Gašparovič not to appoint parliament’s chosen candidate, Jozef Čentéš, to the job of general prosecutor, by suggesting that parliament faced no hindrance to launching a new vote for the top prosecutor, it now seems that the process will not be as smooth as the prime minister had expected. After Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška on January 8 set a term for the submission of candidates for the post of general prosecutor, the parliamentary constitutional committee was scheduled to discuss the candidates on January 18. However, the ruling Smer party admitted on January 16 that it has no confirmed candidate to discuss.

EVEN though earlier in January Prime Minister Robert Fico responded to the decision of President Ivan Gašparovič not to appoint parliament’s chosen candidate, Jozef Čentéš, to the job of general prosecutor, by suggesting that parliament faced no hindrance to launching a new vote for the top prosecutor, it now seems that the process will not be as smooth as the prime minister had expected. After Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška on January 8 set a term for the submission of candidates for the post of general prosecutor, the parliamentary constitutional committee was scheduled to discuss the candidates on January 18. However, the ruling Smer party admitted on January 16 that it has no confirmed candidate to discuss.

Meanwhile, Gašparovič has continued to face criticism for his decision on Čentéš, with the opposition attempting to impeach him for what it calls a violation of the constitution, and around 200 activists holding a protest rally in front of the presidential palace on January 17. Gašparovič also refused to show up at a special session of parliament, though he originally had said he was interested in addressing MPs over the case of Čentéš.

The session, at which the opposition wanted to adopt a resolution expressing concern over the president’s refusal to appoint Čentéš, did not then take place after Smer MPs refused to include the item on the parliamentary agenda, with Paška calling the session meaningless.

“Parliament is not a court,” he said, as quoted by the SITA newswire. “The only authorised body, in which constitutional-legal disputes can pass such statements, is the Constitutional Court.”

Even though the Council of Prosecutors, which is a body representing the interest of prosecutors under the General Prosecutor’s Office, has picked Jaromír Čižnár as the most suitable candidate for the top prosecutor job, Čižnár would not confirm his candidacy until he learns whether the Constitutional Court issues a preliminary injunction regarding the complaint made by Čentéš, who challenged the president’s decision at the court, arguing that the president had failed to list any legitimate reasons for his refusal to appoint him.

“Doctor Čižnár has confirmed that he is interested in waiting to express his consent with his candidacy until the Constitutional Court decides whether it blocks or does not block the election of the candidate for the post of general prosecutor,” Róbert Madej, Smer deputy and chairman of the parliamentary constitutional committee has confirmed for SITA.

Madej added that Smer would also wait for the court’s decision on the eventual injunction.
Fico has so far refrained from commenting on whether Čižnár would be a good candidate for the top prosecutor job.

“I am not here to assess the quality of this or that lawyer,” said Fico as quoted by SITA on January 16 after the regular session of the cabinet, adding that there was no coalition council meeting to pick a candidate in the way that the previous government did.

Back in 2006, the media reported that Čižnár, who was Fico’s classmate, was a possible candidate for the post of the boss of the SIS intelligence service, SITA wrote. Fico also said that the new vote on the general prosecutor would not take place until the Constitutional Court delivers its decision on the preliminary injunction requested by Čentéš. He also added he does not understand why there is suddenly so much fuss over this issue, SITA reported.


Trnka would go for it


Yet Dobroslav Trnka, whose term expired in February 2011 and who was one of the candidates competing with Čentéš for the top job, told television news TA3 on January 16 that he is ready to bid once again for the post of general prosecutor. Trnka confirmed, however, that so far he has not received any offers from the deputies.

“I have nothing to be ashamed of,” Trnka told TA3. “I hope you do not think that I will be guided by what some blogs say. No, forget about that. If I received an offer, I would go for it without the slightest hesitation.”

Trnka said that currently in Slovakia there are only two prosecutors able to face the current media pressure and accept the candidacy; other than himself, Trnka also mentioned head of the Prešov regional prosecution, Mikuláš Gardecký.

Trnka, who is now acting as the deputy to Ladislav Tichý, who leads the office in the absence of an appointed general prosecutor, has been making headlines recently over a controversial real estate transfer that Trnka enabled.

Police have charged the former director of the Senec cadastral office, Igor Svitek, with the crime of thwarting the tasks of a public official on December 5, for having approved the controversial transfer of ownership of the Glance House luxury residential development in Bernolákovo, a municipality near Bratislava. Svitek based his approval on a letter sent to him by Trnka, thus sidestepping an embargo by the Special Prosecutor’s Office on any dealings pertaining to the building. Trnka has not resigned despite the verdict of his boss, Tichý, who said that Trnka had acted unlawfully by issuing a legal opinion that materially affected the disputed ownership of Glance House.

The case involves the construction and sale of Glance House which, thanks to Trnka’s letter, was reportedly transferred to Jana Šlachtová, a representative of CDI, a London-based company with links to Marián Kočner, a controversial businessman also known to be on friendly terms with Trnka, according to Sme.


The lawsuit


Gašparovič received massive criticism from the opposition and political analysts for turning Čentéš down despite parliament voting to select him for the post on June 7, 2011 and the Constitutional Court subsequently confirming the legitimacy of the parliamentary ballot by which he was chosen. After the failed special session to discuss Gašparovič’s conduct, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Most-Híd, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) and the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) are bracing for a Constitutional Court lawsuit against Gašparovič over the alleged intentional violation of the constitution, TASR wrote.

Based on the constitution, the president can be impeached only for intentional violations of the constitution or treason. Filing a lawsuit against the president with the Constitutional Court requires the support of a three-fifths majority in parliament. If found guilty, the president loses his or her post, according to SITA.

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