Slovakia faces an important vote: How will the country look in the next 12 years?

The quality of the Constitutional Court, the last instance of defence of constitutionality in the country, depends on its 13 judges.

Constitutional CourtConstitutional Court (Source: František Iván, TASR)

One month from now, nine of the 13 Constitutional Court judges will remove their robes and leave the court.

Before the end of their 12-year-long term in office on February 16, the parliament, along with the president, should choose and appoint nine new judges to replace them. The whole process is not as straightforward as it sounds, and there are a number of obstacles on the way to a new, well-functioning court after February 16.

40 candidates were nominated either by politicians or significant figures in the judiciary field. Parliament needs to elect 18 candidates and President Andrej Kiska will then choose and appoint nine of them.

“There is no real obstacle that would prevent parliament from choosing, from 40 candidates, those who meet the moral and professional criteria,” Kiska told the press on January 8.

There are several candidates he would gladly appoint, but also those that "I would never appoint", as Kiska said.

There are two main criteria for the future Constitutional Court judges: be professional and moral. These should be determined during public hearings, which the parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee will start on January 23.

Read also:UPDATED: Ex-PM Fico wants to be a Constitutional Court judge Read more 

The plenum of the parliament will then start the election on January 29. In the event that they do not manage to elect the required 18 names, they can also only submit 16 to the president, and the Parliament's Speaker should announce a new election immediately, to give the two additional names to the president to choose from, said Lucia Berdisová from the Department of Law Theory and Constitutional Law of Trnava University.

“The quality of the Constitutional Court and thus the last level of defence of constitutionality in the country depends most of all on these few people,” Berdisová told The Slovak Spectator. If they fail, the defence of constitutionality in its last instance also fails, she added.

Court determines citizens vs. state relations

Kiska should be able to choose nine names from the list. Berdisová paraphrases the Senate of Constitutional Court as explaining that the president must name half of the given names. The plenum did not disprove the statement, however, neither did it give its own opinion.

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