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Push to block MPs from holding other offices

IN A RARE moment of agreement the conservative Christian Democrats (KDH) and liberal Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party both claim that public officials should only be allowed to hold one elected office. They are not alone, either, even the ruling Smer party has new limits in mind.

The seats would be distributed differently, had the election taken place in mid-December. (Source: TASR)

IN A RARE moment of agreement the conservative Christian Democrats (KDH) and liberal Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party both claim that public officials should only be allowed to hold one elected office. They are not alone, either, even the ruling Smer party has new limits in mind.

KDH has long had the “one mandate is enough” principle on its agenda and made it one of the highlights of their election programme in 2010. It was subsequently a part of the programme statement of the Iveta Radičová government, but no concrete steps have been taken. This time around, SaS has proposed even stricter limits. Smer party has hinted that it might rekindle its “constitutional bond” with the KDH that saw the two pair to pass changes to the judiciary and to define marriage as a unique bond between a man and a woman earlier this year.

One mandate is enough

On July 9, the KDH announced they were preparing a constitutional amendment that would introduce the “one mandate is enough” principle, but with a limited scope. Namely, members of the national parliament and the European Parliament wouldn’t be able to serve simultaneously as regional governors or mayors.

“It is simply impossible to adequately hold the office of a mayor or regional governor and an MP,” KDH’s Pavol Hrušovský, who will co-author the draft constitutional amendment with the movement leader Ján Figeľ, said. The KDH politicians claim that MPs spend several weeks of the month in Bratislava (MEPs in Brussels), and that simply does not leave them with enough time for their work in the regional or municipal administration.

“Let alone the fact that often there are conflicts of interests when voting in the parliament,” Hrušovský said.

The MP-mayor combination, as well as combination of other posts, is not rare in the Slovak parliament.

SaS goes even further in a proposal that it plans to submit for the next parliamentary session: it should ban MPs from simultaneously holding any other executive post, including mayor, regional governor, the head of the state-run Sociálna Poisťovňa social insurer and similar management jobs, the party leader Richard Sulík wrote on his blog on July 20. He claims that mayors who serve as MPs often have a conflict of interest and succumb to their local ambitions when voting in the parliament. Sulík also argues that what is good for a particular municipality might be quite bad for the country overall.

Smer may step in

Neither the SaS nor KDH ruled out cooperating in their efforts to introduce the one mandate principle, either by mutual support for each other’s proposal or by designing a joint proposal. The SaS-KDH pact might however not be enough to make the changes happen and KDH’s constitutional amendment will require 90 votes in the parliament, which cannot be achieved without at least some votes from the ruling Smer party, which has 83 MPs.

Smer did not explicitly rule out its potential support for the amendment. This could mean that KDH and Smer could once again seal an agreement on ad hoc cooperation, as they did earlier this year, prior to the presidential election, when they together passed constitutional amendments introducing changes to the judiciary and a traditional definition of marriage.

This time around, a similar exchange might be in sight. While KDH will push for its one mandate rule, Smer has come up with a plan to ban transportation and transit of water gained from sources of ground water, natural healing waters, mineral water, geothermal waters, water courses and surface water across Slovakia’s borders. Even though Smer representatives have been ambiguous about such deal with KDH, none have explicitly refused supporting the KDH proposal.

“They’re two completely different proposals,” Smer parliamentary caucus head Jana Laššáková said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “There is indeed scope for negotiations ... We’ll hold talks with political parties to secure the greatest support possible.”

One salary is enough

As recently as February, Smer has refused a similar idea – to allow MPs to be paid only one salary even if they hold multiple posts in public administration. At the time, the KDH was trying to introduce such limit through an amendment on the salary conditions of some constitutional officials. Based on the proposal, MPs were to be banned from receiving anything other than their parliamentary salary, with some exceptions such as physicians and academics.

Several months later, at the June 28 congress of the ruling Smer party, Prime Minister Robert Fico mentioned the accumulation of posts as one of the problems of the public administration.

“Smer must come up with an initiative that a constitutional official with several posts will only have one salary and will be paid only the minimum wage for holding other posts,” Fico said, as quoted by TASR.

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