The conflict between Parliament’s Speaker Andrej Danko and opposition MP Igor Matovič reached yet another peak after the parliament passed new rules of procedure. Matovič might be disciplined for some of his statements in the parliamentary debate about the proposal, which prompted Danko to ponder changing the rules concerning MP immunity and banning racist statements in the parliament.
Matovič, in an attempt to criticise the new rules that, for instance, limit MPs' speeches to 20 minutes and introduce a dress code for MPs, likened the new parliamentary regime to the circumstances in a concentration camp if Jews and guards decided to play football against each other.
“And suddenly the guards say, we are the guards so our head of the camp will be the referee. It is just as perverse. We as opposition MPs or as opposition are at a disadvantage at this point, like Jews in a concentration camp,” Matovič said in the parliament.
When reproached for saying this, Matovič defended himself saying it was a “normal metaphor” which he used to “point to the totalitarian approach of Andrej Danko to the opposition minority in the parliament”, Sme daily reported.
In response to Danko’s disciplinary proposal against him, Matovič filed a criminal complaint against Danko for false accusation.
Banning racism pondered
Based on the motion that Danko filed against Matovič on October 28, the parliamentary mandate and immunity committee will decide on disciplining the MP. He is facing a fine of up to €1,000. But the parliament’s speaker deems this insufficient and is ready to launch talks with his coalition partners Smer and Most-Hid, to ban expressions of defamation of nation and race in the parliament. Such statements should constitute a crime.
The proposed ban would concern MPs’ immunity, any change of which requires amending the constitution and thus 90 votes in the parliament.
The coalition is currently supported by 81 MPs.
Danko argues for the change citing not only the recent statements by Matovič, but also the statements of some of the MPs for extremist People’s Party – Our Slovakia (LSNS), namely Milan Mazurek (who has been accused of Holocaust denial but the prosecution decided not to press charges), Sanislav Mizík, and Natália Grausová. The two MPs were talking about Israel as a state where apartheid is applied.
Danko filed a disciplinary motion against the three LSNS MPs too.
Matovič accused him of hypocrisy and stated that for eight months Danko did not mind that LSNS MPs have questioned the Holocaust and offended Roma and Muslims in the parliament. He believes Danko is only trying to discredit him “at any price”, Sme quoted.
Slovakia’s Jews angered
The Central Association of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia also condemned Matovič’s statements and reminded that 70,000 Slovak citizens perished in the Holocaust.
“Downplaying the Holocaust like that is not just indecent, immoral, but also stupid,” the association’s president Igor Rintel said as quoted by the Sme daily.
Rintel also addressed the statements of MP Grausová about the president of the wartime Slovak state, Jozef Tiso, that he says “coarsely twist elementary historical facts and spread the most primitive myths about the history of the Jewish community”.
“The MP imagines that he received an Israeli award for saving Slovak Jews,” Rintel said as quoted by Sme. “Of course he could not and he did not. This conspiracy has existed for decades and has been repeated by extremists. Unfortunately for them, it’s not based on the truth.”
Coalition partners agree
Danko’s coalition partners in their reactions suggested they would support the change in the immunity of MPs.
“Unfortunately it turns out that spreading hate is not just the domain of one extremist party but also other opposition MPs,” Most-Híd leader Béla Bugár wrote in an official statement, adding that there is a need for tools that would make such statements prosecutable.
Prime Minister Robert Fico said that Slovakia is a country that fully respects the events that happened during the World War II, and that denying or downplaying the Holocaust is unacceptable.
“As the prime minister I sharply protest against the statements of some opposition politicians in the parliament, because they offended the Holocaust victims,” Fico said as quoted by Sme and added that he would support the initiative to make this exempt from the MP immunity.
3. Nov 2016 at 12:19 | Michaela Terenzani