Speaker of Parliament Andrej Danko (Slovak National Party-SNS) has set up a working group to prepare amendments to parliament’s rules of procedure. The changes are necessary with regard to recent incidents in the house during debates, he explained.
Rules of procedure of more than 20 EU countries were analysed in order to draft the necessary changes. The opposition, however, finds some proposals alarming.
“Good behaviour and proper and suitable clothes should be the absolute standard of behaviour at plenary sessions of parliament,” said Danko, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
This includes observing proposed rules, such as the bans on using mobile phones, consuming food and drink, and recording videos in the house. This is a must, and no exceptions should be made, Danko added.
The speaker of parliament referred to such cases when, for example, Igor Matovič of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO-NOVA) wore a T-shirt with the slogan ‘Fico protects thieves’ in parliament in reference to Prime Minister Robert Fico (Smer). He even unfurled a banner at an extraordinary session of parliament aimed at a no-confidence motion in Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák (Smer) over his alleged interference in the Bašternák tax fraud case, TASR wrote.
Among the prepared changes will be a system for precisely allocating time for debates in the house. The idea of time limits on speeches is mainly based on practical experience, not only from Slovak parliamentary sessions but also from many examples in history as well as current practices around the world, according to Danko.
“We know from history that efforts at extremely long rhetorical speeches were known as early as in the Roman Senate,” he said, as quoted by TASR, adding that time limits on parliamentary debates are applied in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Greece and other EU countries.
Danko also wants to introduce bans on using mobile phones, consuming food and drink and recording videos in the house. He wants to propose new drafts of rules for procedure to MPs right after parliament reconvenes in September, opening the points up for debate.Session on recalling PM Fico postponed indefinitely Read more
Opposition disagrees with some proposals
Some 20 or 30 minutes should be enough for MPs in parliament to express their ideas, opposition parties Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) and We Are Family of Boris Kollár responded.
“On one hand, I think that politicians should be good speakers and should be able to express their thoughts in 20-30 minutes ... If this measure passes, it will be a test of MPs’ rhetorical skills,” said Deputy Speaker of Parliament Lucia Nicholsonová (SaS), as quoted by TASR.
She, however, considers the package of the proposed measures as a whole to be quite alarming.
“It looks as if it’s directly aimed against the opposition and its current activities,” Nicholsonová added. “It strikes me that parliamentary leaders involved in scandals [sic] are calling for changes to the rules of procedure as if it were the most urgent issue in Slovakia. They’re doing this to try to distract attention from the fact that they feature in the biggest ever scandal – the Bašternák case.”
Kollár agrees with the idea of time limits on speeches if an MP gets at least 20-30 minutes. In addition, he can also imagine banning the consumption of food in the house, as proposed by Danko. He disagrees, however, with the ban on drinking, as reported by TASR.
Matovič responded that Slovakia has a parliamentary chairman who promised voters an uncompromising fight against corruption.
“Instead, he considers a T-shirt, a banner, a Horalka wafer in parliament and a colon in RTVS’s logo to be the main issues in Slovakia,” Matovič added, as quoted by TASR. “Moreover, he [Danko] wants to shut the opposition’s mouth only because he doesn’t like hearing uncomfortable truths.”