The opposition parties have rejected the idea of time limits on speeches in parliament proposed by Speaker of Parliament Andrej Danko of the Slovak National Party (SNS).
Though Danko claims the new rules are not undemocratic, the largest opposition party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) has come out against Danko’s proposals.
“Almost everything in them bothers us,” said chair of the party’s caucus Natália Blahová, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “We’re planning to reject this in its entirety.”
SaS is also displeased with the way in which Danko has presented the changes.
“We’d like such proposals to be adopted via broad consensus,” Blahová added, as quoted by TASR. “Important changes such as these should be discussed with all political parties.”
Chair of the caucus of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO-NOVA) party Richard Vašecka is of a similar opinion. The first step should be to identify problems, then to set the aim of the amendment. Only after this should actual changes be discussed, he said.
“We’ll demand that there should be no restrictions,” said Boris Kollár, chair of the We Are Family party, before a committee session on August 16, as quoted by TASR. “This is the opposition’s only chance to speak.”
20 minutes of speaking appears to be too little in certain cases, he added.
Except for limits on speeches, the new rules should allow the speaker of parliament to suspend a session if he or she ejects an MP from the house for inappropriate behaviour but the MP refuses to comply. The speaker would also be able to file a motion for disciplinary proceedings against an MP. In addition, Danko wants to introduce a dress code and bans on using mobile phones, consuming food and drink and recording videos as well.
“You won’t find a single undemocratic measure in the [new] rules of procedure,” Danko responded, as quoted by TASR. “There isn’t a single intervention into opposition rights. Every change applies to both coalition and opposition MPs alike.”
He is convinced that the new rules will nurture a higher culture in parliament. The parliament of today lacks elementary politeness and lying is a commonplace, he added.
Deputy speakers of parliament Béla Bugár (Most-Híd) and Andrej Hrnčiar (former Sieť) conceded that time limits on lawmaker speeches could be revised, with MPs still likely to remain entitled to register for debates in two ways: both orally and in writing.
They agree with time limits on speeches, although Bugár wants this to be applied on an equal footing to both lawmakers and parliamentary leaders, who were originally supposed to be exempt, TASR wrote.
Sulík asked to leave
Earlier that day, SaS chair Richard Sulík was not allowed to attend a parliamentary committee meeting. As a result, the liberals walked out of the session even before it began.
Sulík was not delegated by SaS to attend the session, explained Hrnčiar.
“Danko called on me to leave the meeting room,” said Sulík after his departure, as quoted by TASR, adding that the rules of procedure stipulate that a person nominated for a committee does not have to be an MP.
He referred to the fact he gave up his MP mandate to preserve his seat in the European Parliament, TASR wrote.
“I’ve been nominated, but then they said something about delegates, that I wasn’t on some list back in March,” Sulík went on. “It was as if they pounced on everything I said.”
He also deems it strange that a chairman of a parliamentary party cannot attend such a session, as reported by TASR.
SaS rejects the changes to parliament’s rules of procedure that have been proposed by Danko and the way in which he has dealt with them. The party insists on a joint coalition-opposition discussion.