Category Archives: Slovakia

Slovakia – More presidential vetoes

Since the last presidential election, President Ivan Gašparovič has vetoed less frequently than previously. This is unsurprising. Although he is nominally independent, President Gašparovič won re-election in 2009 with the support of PM Fico’s Smer party. Given Smer won a majority in the March 2012 parliamentary election, we would expect President Gašparovič to be less active.

So, for example, according to the president’s website in the 2011 calendar year he returned 19 bills to parliament. This was when he was faced with a government of which he disapproved. By contrast, in just over a year from April 2012 to now he has returned only five bills to parliament.

Interestingly, though, he returned three bills in March 2013 and another in May. So, perhaps for whatever reason he is becoming a little more active as his term in office comes to an end.

Slovakia – Presidential (non-) appointment powers

In many constitutions, presidents have the constitutional power/duty to sign into law the proposal to appoint people to various political offices. In other words, another institution – perhaps the PM – nominates the person to the particular office and the president signs off on the nomination, thus officialising the appointment. The wording of this presidential power/duty in the constitution is almost always in the present indicative tense i.e. “the president appoints …”. However, the use of this tense raises the question of whether the president has the right not to sign off on the nomination.

Art. 102 (1) t of the Slovakian Constitution states that the President of Slovakia “appoints and recalls judges, Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic, General Prosecutor …”. The appointment of a new General Prosecutor has been causing a political stir for some time now.

The Slovak Spectator reports that President Ivan Gašparovič has refused to sign off on the proposed appointment of Jozef Čentéš as General Prosecutor. The precise details of the case need not detain us. However, the key point is that in June 2011 parliament passed a resolution naming Mr Čentéš to the office. The president refused to make the appointment arguing that the parliamentary vote was not properly conducted. The issue then went to the Constitutional Court in October 2012. The Court ruled that the parliamentary vote was valid. However, it also, in effect, granted the president the power to veto the appointment “if the candidate does not meet the legal requirements for the office or there are ‘grave reasons’ that cast doubt on the candidate’s ability to perform the job”. So, the Court did not give the president a blanket power to refuse a nomination, but it did make it clear that there were conditions under which the president could refuse nominations.

So, the Court’s ruling meant that the use of the present tense in the constitution did not imply that the president’s signature had to be automatic. In effect, the Court increased the veto power of the president.

To bring the story up to date, President Gašparovič has now formally written to parliament rejecting the nomination. He has provided a list of reasons, but these are contested both by the opposition parties, who were in office when the nomination was made, and by Mr Čentéš. Interestingly, the new PM, Robert Fico, did not condemn the president’s actions.

Slovakia – New PM

The formal hand over of power has taken place in Slovakia following last month’s parliamentary election. The result was a big victory for the Smer party, which now has 83 seats in the 150-seat legislature.

The new PM is Robert Fico, the leader of Smer. The Slovak Spectator reports that he heads a single-party government, but that he has brought in four non-party ministers.

Even though President Ivan Gašparovič is officially non-partisan, he was re-elected last time with the support of Smer. The Slovak president is quite weak, but President Gašparovič was critical of the outgoing government and repeatedly vetoed legislation. In theory, he should veto fewer bills under the incoming government.

Slovakia – Parliamentary election

Slovakia held its parliamentary election at the weekend. The turnout was 59.11%. The result was a big win for the opposition Smer party

Smer – Sociálna Demokracia, 44.41%, 83 seats (+11)
Kresťanskodemokratické hnutie, KDH (Christian Democratic Movement), 8.82%, 16 seats (+1)
Obyčajní Ľudia a nezávislé osobnosti, OĽaNO (Ordinary People and Independent Personalities), 8.55%, 16 seats (+16)
Most–Híd, 6.89%, 13 seats (-1)
Slovenská demokratická a kresťanská únia, SDKU (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union), 6.09%, 11 seats (-17)
Sloboda a Solidarita, SaS (Freedom and Solidarity), 5.88%, 11 seats (-11)
Slovenská národná strana, SNS (Slovak National Party), 4.55%, 0 seats (-9)
Strana maďarskej koalície – Magyar Koalíció Pártja (Party of the Hungarian Coalition), 4.28%, 0 seats
No other party won more than 2 per cent.

So, Smer has an absolute majority.

Slovakia – Presidential vetoes

The Slovak Spectator is reporting that on 21 December President Gašparovič of Slovakia vetoed two government laws. They were the law on the salaries of public officials and the law on social services.

Apparently, President Gašparovič objected to the fact that the law on the salaries of public officials included a clause allowing deputies to be eligible for their salary from the time they are elected rather than from they are sworn in. In relation to the law on social services he objected to the retroactive nature of the legislation.

Even though the Slovak government has fallen and is now only an interim government, there is still a period of de facto cohabitation. As explained in a previous post, the president’s party situation makes it difficult to decide whether or not Slovakia is formally experiencing a period of cohabitation. However, President Gašparovič is definitely more associated with the opposition Smer party and its allies than with the incumbent government. So, given a form of de facto cohabitation, we would expect there to be presidential vetoes. If, as expected, Smer win the upcoming legislative election, it will be interesting to see whether the number of vetoes declines. I calculate that there were six vetoes in 2011.

Slovakia – Poll suggests Smer may win a single-party majority

The Slovak Spectator is reporting the results of a recent poll suggesting that the opposition Smer party is way ahead in the opinion polls and may even have enough support to win an overall majority.

Here are the figures:

Smer – 45.2 percent
Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) – 11.3 percent
Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) – 9.9 percent
Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) – 7.5 percent
Most-Híd – 7 percent
Slovak National Party (SNS) – 5.4 percent

There is a 5 per cent threshold.

The poll suggests that Smer would win 79 of 150 seats in the legislature.

The poll is interesting because, as Pozorblog reports, this is the first one that gives Smer an overall majority even when all of the other small parties cross the 5 per cent threshold.

Slovakia – The govt. has fallen, so should the president go to the EU summit?

The fall of the Slovakian government is raising some interesting questions.

The first is what to do about the interim government? The election is scheduled for March. In the meantime, should there be a technical government, should there be a new government, or should the existing government remain in office? No-one wants a technical government. There seems to be little desire for the current opposition Smer party to try to form a new government. Presumably, this is because it is doing well in the polls. Better to have an election as an opposition party than to be seen as the incumbent party. So, this leaves the third option. However, the constitution seem to make this option impossible. Art. 115 states: “If the President of the Slovak Republic accepts the Government’s resignation, he will entrust it with the execution of its duties until a new Government is appointed.”. However, no government is being appointed. There is going to be an election. So, what to do between now and the election?

The solution is a constitutional amendment! The Slovak Spectator is reporting that the parties have agreed to pass a constitutional amendment that will allow PM Radičová’s government to remain in office until the election.

A related question concerned who should represent Slovakia at the upcoming EU summit. The absence of a government led President Gašparovič to volunteer to represent the country. This proposal was supported by Robert Fico, the Smer leader, who supported the ‘independent’ Gašparovič in his presidential re-election campaign. However, PM Radičová wanted to represent Slovakia, even though she has resigned and her resignation has been accepted. She said that Gašparovič should not represent Slovakia because he did not speak English and there might be problems with interpreters in closed meetings.

Anyway, it seems as if the constitutional deal has ended the confusion or politicking. Given a way has been found to allow Radičová to stay on, then she will represent Slovakia. However, we can add this episode to previous presidential/prime ministerial EU representation spats in Poland (see here) and Finland (see here).

Slovakia – PM loses confidence motion

In Slovakia, the government has lost a motion of confidence. The vote was linked to the passage of the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF).

The government, led by Iveta Radičová from the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), is a coalition of the SDKÚ, KDH, SaS, and Most–Híd. The coalition had the support of 77 of the 150 seats in the parliament.

The Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party is opposed to the EFSF. It announced that it would not support the bill. In reply, PM Radičová declared that the EFSF would be tabled as a motion of confidence in the government (Art. 115).

The vote was held on Tuesday. A total of 76 votes were required for the government to survive. This is because Art. 84 (2) states: “For a resolution of the National Council of the Slovak Republic to be valid, it must be passed by more than one-half of the Members of Parliament present”.

In the end, SaS did not vote and the opposition abstained as well, meaning that the government had the support of only 55 deputies. Therefore, the government lost the confidence vote and has fallen.

So, what happens now? Events moved quickly yesterday. PM Radičová will resign. President Gašparovič will be back in the country this evening, allowing him to accept her resignation. A caretaker government can be appointed. A second vote on the EFSF bill will take place. The de facto leader of the opposition, former PM Robert Fico of Smer, has announced that his party is likely to support the EFSF in a second vote. So, the legislation will pass.

Yesterday, SDKÚ, KDH, Most–Híd, and Smer reached an agreement to pass a constitutional act, which requires 90 of the 150 votes in parliament, to allow an early dissolution. The date of the election has already been pencilled in for 10 March 2012. This suits Smer because it currently stands at around 40% in the polls.

All told, the Slovak vote may not hold up the passage of the EFSF legislation, but it has caused a government crisis there. PM Radičová is being roundly condemned politically for having tied the EFSF vote to a confidence motion. She seemed to underestimate the resolve of the SaS to oppose the EFSF. She also ensured that Smer would be unlikely to support the bill because it could not support her on a confidence motion. She has now lost her position as PM, and elections will be held at which Smer is likely to be returned with a majority. If she had not tied the bill to confidence in the the government, then Smer may have supported it, the bill would have passed, and she might still be in office.

Slovakia – PM survives no-confidence motion and update on presidential vetoes

In Slovakia, the government has survived a motion of no-confidence.

The government, led by Iveta Radičová from the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), is a coalition of the SDKÚ, KDH, SaS, and Most–Híd. According to my information, the coalition has the support of 77 of the 150 seats in the parliament.

Last week, the opposition parties, Smer and the Slovak National Party (SNS), lodged a motion of no-confidence in the government. The Slovak Spectator states that the opposition criticised the government for “poor leadership of the country, and made allegations about a case of suspected corruption linked to the construction of a government-subsidised biathlon stadium in Osrblie and cover-ups of up alleged party cronyism during a tender to rent tax offices in Košice which was won by a company, Nitra Invest, owned by Ondrej Ščurka, a member of Radičová’s Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ).”

The no-confidence motion was debated yesterday and lasted 12 hours. The debate came at a difficult time for the government. The Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party is opposed to the proposed changes to European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), the mechanism that underpins the Greek, Irish and Portuguese bailouts in the Eurozone.

In the end, the SaS supported the government. The Slovak Spectator reports that the no-confidence was opposed by 78 votes and supported by only 69 votes. Even though the government survived, the situation remains unstable at least until Slovakia and the SaS determines its position on the EFSF.

In addition, I thought that I would take this opportunity to provide an update about presidential vetoes. In a previous post, I reported that the president had vetoed two bills in December and that the votes to overturn them had taken place in February. In June, President Gašparovič vetoed three more bills, the Act on Use of Minority Languages, an amendment to the Press Code, and the so-called Act on Prosecuting Authorities. Last week, The Daily Slovakia reports that parliament met and overturned all three vetoes.

Slovakia – Government majority threatened

In Slovakia, the government’s parliamentary majority is under threat.

The 2010 election returned a four-party coalition, led by the SDKÚ-DS and including the KDH, SaS, and Most–Híd. This coalition originally held 79 of the 150 seats in the parliament. However, the Slovak Spectator reports that a KDH deputy defected to the opposition in January. Now, the SaS party has expelled the leader of one of its factions. Thus, the government has the support of 77 deputies.

The so-called Ordinary People faction originally had four members. To date, the three remaining members have pledged their continuing support for the government. However, they have said that if the faction leader forms a new party, then they will leave. This would mean that the government would no longer have a majority.