Constitutional Court hearings: The vote is a political affair, Fico says

MPs grilled the Constitutional Court candidates, former prime minister was the highlight of day one.

Robert Fico at the public hearing of candidates for the Constitutional Court judges.Robert Fico at the public hearing of candidates for the Constitutional Court judges. (Source: Sme)

"Let me underline the political nature of this act, the formation of Slovakia's Constitutional Court," Robert Fico told MPs and the public at the very beginning of his presentation as a candidate for Constitutional Court judge.

Members of the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the parliament commenced the hearings of the 40 candidates who applied for the nine soon-to-be-vacant posts on January 23. The candidates are called for hearings in alphabetical order. On the first day, MPs heard 11 of them.

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Former prime minister and Smer chairman Robert Fico, who arrived at the hearing accompanied by his bodyguards, was among them.

Fico, who was grilled in a chair for almost an hour, believes "it is a good thing if there are people experienced in politics".

Fico: Court elections are political

It is untrue to claim that the creation of the Constitutional Court is not political, Fico said, calling it "an important political act in which relevant political players participate".

This political act has become a tradition in Europe, Fico said and named Austria, Germany, and France as examples of places where politicians or nominees of political parties hold the top Constitutional Court posts.

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Former justice minister Lucia Žitňanská, who attended the hearing as an MP, agreed with Fico that former politicians may have access to judicial positions but stressed that "not all politicians are the same". She asked Fico what he would do, if appointed as judge, to ensure he does not continue polarising society or decrease the public's trust in justice. Fico declined to answer and only said he was aware Žitňanská was not going to vote for him.

In his presentation, the Smer head talked mostly about his past legal experience before he entered the political arena, pointing out his interest in the death penalty or victims of criminal acts.

Natural decision

"Joining this competition is possible only once every 12 years," Fico, who considers it natural to apply for this position, replied to the question why he made this decision. "I would blame myself if I did not use this opportunity to submit an application."

One of the committee members, opposition MP Ondrej Dostál (SaS), questioned Fico's legal experience of 15 years, which is one of the conditions to apply for this post. He suggested that Fico's CV only shows 13 years and nine months of the required experience in a legal job, while the rest of his career was in politics.

"I regard it ridiculous and embarrassing if someone doubts my qualification for the Constitutional Court," Fico reacted. He later pledged he would provide the committee with proof of his work as legal representative during the years he already served as an MP.

Public hearings of the remaining 32 candidates are scheduled for January 24 and 25. They may continue next week if the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee fail to hear all of them this week.

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