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Parliament rushes to debate changes

DISPUTED efforts to include the definition of marriage in the Slovak Constitution as a “unique bond between one man and one woman” are under discussion in parliament even before the leader of the ruling Smer party, Prime Minister Robert Fico, clashes with independent candidate Andrej Kiska in the second round of the presidential elections on March 29, with Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška modifying the programme of the ongoing parliamentary session.

DISPUTED efforts to include the definition of marriage in the Slovak Constitution as a “unique bond between one man and one woman” are under discussion in parliament even before the leader of the ruling Smer party, Prime Minister Robert Fico, clashes with independent candidate Andrej Kiska in the second round of the presidential elections on March 29, with Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška modifying the programme of the ongoing parliamentary session.

Parliament is now rushing to debate a package of changes to the constitution sealed by an unexpected pre-election union of the Smer party and the opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH). The two parties are to push through a joint constitutional amendment which includes both the definition of marriage, drafted by the KDH, and the judiciary changes authored by Fico and Smer.

Campaign

Judiciary reform and the protection of traditional family became heated campaign topics before the first round of presidential elections. Paška offered no explanation for changing the schedule of the debate, which originally featured the draft revision to the constitution as the 23rd point on the programme, which meant discussion would likely have occurred after the second round of the presidential election, the SITA newswire reported.

Other draft laws, six of them pertaining to judiciary and authored by opposition MPs and one constitutional amendment proposed by the KDH and signed by 40 opposition MPs, which introduces the same definition of marriage that also the KDH-Smer draft amendment includes, will only be discussed in parliament later on, most likely after the presidential election.

“The proposal obviously serves as a support for the campaign of Robert Fico,” said Pavol Frešo, chairman of the opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), as quoted by SITA.

Judiciary changes

Fico, amid his presidential campaign, announced that “we are losing patience with the Slovak judiciary” and has made promises towards that end, with his political opponents and critics of the judiciary remaining sceptical and seeing the initiative as merely part of Fico’s presidential campaign.

Smer needed opposition support to pursue its plans for the judiciary, since any constitutional amendments require 90 votes in parliament and Smer holds just 83 seats. The KDH has eight MPs, enough to reach a constitutional majority.

Fico, during his six years in the post of prime minister, has been resistant to discussions on the state of the judiciary.

One year ago when the opposition initiated a special session on the state of the judiciary, Smer blocked the session with Fico calling it unnecessary, as quoted by SITA.

Lucia Žitňanská, a former justice minister, said the Smer-KDH bill pertaining to the judiciary was dangerous.

“Today there is no legitimate reason to have this purposive revision to the constitution discussed ahead of the second round of presidential elections,” Žitňanská said. The only reasons for speeding up the debate are partisan ones and thus evoke concerns, she told SITA.

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