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New GP to be elected this month, says Fico

ON THE SAME day that the Constitutional Court suspended an amendment to the law regulating its own operation, which the government passed ostensibly to resolve a deadlock over a complaint submitted by elected-but-not-yet-appointed general prosecutor Jozef Čentéš to the court, Prime Minister Robert Fico announced that his government would go ahead and elect another general prosecutor at the next parliamentary session scheduled to begin on June 18. Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška swiftly invited deputies to submit their nominations by 16:00 on June 13. The opposition criticised the Smer-orchestrated development, calling it a violation of the constitution.

ON THE SAME day that the Constitutional Court suspended an amendment to the law regulating its own operation, which the government passed ostensibly to resolve a deadlock over a complaint submitted by elected-but-not-yet-appointed general prosecutor Jozef Čentéš to the court, Prime Minister Robert Fico announced that his government would go ahead and elect another general prosecutor at the next parliamentary session scheduled to begin on June 18. Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška swiftly invited deputies to submit their nominations by 16:00 on June 13. The opposition criticised the Smer-orchestrated development, calling it a violation of the constitution.

“There is no constitutional obstacle which would prevent the election of a new general prosecutor,” Fico said on June 6, restating his earlier claim in response to criticism by the opposition, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

The election will take place regardless of the fact that the Constitutional Court has not yet ruled on the complaint by Čentéš – who considers his human rights to have been violated by the president’s continuing refusal to appoint him despite his election by the 2010-2012 parliament – or his request for a preliminary injunction by the court to block any new elections until his case is resolved. Meanwhile Čentéš, who is hopeful that the court’s decision to suspend the legislation will lead to a fair decision on his case, said that if another top prosecutor is elected before his request is resolved at the court, he would challenge that election’s results.

The suspended legislation

The Constitutional Court has suspended the amendment to the law on the operation of the court until it assesses its compliance with the country’s constitution, court spokeswoman Anna Pančurová said, as reported by the TASR newswire.

The change was to resolve a deadlock in the Constitutional Court, which was the result of both sides in the Čentéš-Gašparovič case challenging all but one of the court’s 13 judges on grounds of alleged bias.

The amendment, which foresees the implementation of the doctrine of necessity based on the so-called Bangalore principles of judicial conduct, makes it possible for judges who have previously been excluded from deciding on a given matter to pass judgment if inactivity on the part of the court would lead to a denial of access to fair judicial treatment. On this basis the Čentéš case was returned to the originally assigned senate composed of Justices Marianna Mochnáčová, Milan Ľalík and Peter Brňák, despite Brňák and Ľalík having both been excluded from ruling on the case based on Čentéš’ objections to them.

A group of opposition deputies from the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), Most-Híd and the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) challenged the legislation with the Constitutional Court and requested a preliminary injunction to suspend its validity. The court complied with the request on June 5.

Fico’s response

In response to the court’s decision, Fico said that he has never commented on the decision of the Constitutional Court and would not start doing so now, adding that he respects the latest decision.
“But it has already been too much,” Fico said on June 5, as quoted by the SITA, adding that parliament could have elected the general prosecutor from the very first day it summoned its first session in April 2012. “We have been tolerant because we knew that different complaints were lodged.”

The government had expected that the Constitutional Court would solve these complaints, but that did not happen and the court became blocked, said Fico, adding that his government then rendered a “helping hand” with the legislation, which the court has now suspended.

“We are now where we were at the beginning of 2012,” Fico said, suggesting that this situation would mean that the country might not have a general prosecutor until June 2014, when the country should get a new president, SITA reported.

Meanwhile, Paška has set the deadline for submitting the names of candidates as 16:00 on June 13.
Smer, with its clear majority in parliament, could easily elect the general prosecutor. Fico has nevertheless remained tight-lipped about whom his party would support for the post.

Earlier this year, the Council of Prosecutors, which represents the interest of prosecutors under the General Prosecutor’s Office, picked Jaromír Čižnár as the most suitable alternative candidate for the top prosecutor job, but Čižnár responded he would not confirm his candidacy until he learns whether the Constitutional Court intends to issue a preliminary injunction based on Čentéš’ complaint.

Čižnár, a former law-school classmate of Fico’s, has not said whether under the current conditions he would run for the post, the Sme daily reported on May 6.

Yet Fico suggested that they might even consult with the president on their choice of candidate in advance.

“I would consider it very reasonable,” Fico said as quoted by SITA.

Čentéš not surprised

“Unfortunately I expected such a proceeding,” Čentéš said in response to Fico’s remarks, as quoted by SITA. “As far as this new election will take place before the Constitutional Court decides about my proposal to issue a preliminary injunction to suspend the legislation, I do not exclude that I will use the respective legal means to challenge and cancel the decision of such an election.”

Čentéš interpreted the Constitutional Court’s June 5 decision as a rejection of intervention from other branches of the state into its legal decisions, SITA reported.

“The decision, at the same time, in my opinion, makes it possible for the Constitutional Court to take a course of action in the case of my complaint against the decision of the president, based on the current legal regulations, in a way it had intended to act until the adoption of the revision,” Čentéš said.

Opposition concerned

KDH leader Ján Figeľ said that a new election in advance of the Constitutional Court’s ruling would be a flagrant violation of the constitution, insisting that there already is a candidate for the general prosecution job, and that is Jozef Čentéš. Figeľ also added that he expects the Constitutional Court to deliver a competent decision, SITA reported.

Nevertheless, Figeľ considers it outrageous that a couple of hours after the court released a decision, the ruling party announced the impending election of a new general prosecutor.

The SDKÚ’s Lucia Žitňanská, a former justice minister, said it is completely obvious that Fico decided to elect his general prosecutor at any price and that he wants to do it before the holidays because during the holidays people will forget about the scandal.

“Fico consequently is following his goal so that he has his general prosecutor,” said Žitňanská, as quoted by SITA. “On the road towards this goal he did not hesitate to abuse the president [and] press on the Constitutional Court; [and] use his deputies in parliament to pass a law to make the election of the general prosecutor easier in a fast-tracked procedure.”

According to Žitňanská, Fico obviously thinks “he can do anything; today he has the force, but we already have had one such person”, she noted, referring to the controversial three-time prime minister Vladimír Mečiar.

Fico called the reactions of the opposition an “outrageous and tendentious misleading of the public”, adding that the opposition should recall “what it was doing during the election of the general prosecutor during the last election term”.

According to Fico, the opposition literarily “broke the back of democracy” in its effort to elect its “political nominee”, when, through what he alleges were anti-constitutional mechanisms, like changing the secret ballot to an open vote, it forced its own deputies to vote in contradiction with their free conviction, SITA reported.

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