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The refusal of the Attorney General's appointment

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Early january the Slovak President, Ivan Gašparovič has once and for all refused to appoint Jozef Čentéš as Attorney General, even though he had been legally elected by the Parliament. This refusal has led to an attempt of impeaching the President. Was that a disproportionate measure?

A justified presidential refusal

Kristina Londakova | translated by: Kummer Lívia | 2013. June 12. 17:05

The refusal of the President, morally legitimate and difficult to attack on legal bases, was justified. The impeachment procedure initiated by the opposition was disproportionate and absurd, given their untimely involvement in the election of the Prosecutor. This case illustrates the immaturity of their behaviour.

In 2010, at the time of the right-wing Radičová government, the unstable parliamentary "majority" found it hard to elect a candidate for the post of Attorney General. An Attorney General is de jure the representative of the state in justice and de facto he is in charge of investigating the major cases of the powerful. For this reason electing him is always divisive and politicized and the election is marked by fraud and political games. To ensure the victory of its candidate, the right-wing majority has changed the voting that went from secret to public in order to force deputies to adjust their choice to the party line. M.Čentéš was eventually elected, but he only represented the right-wing of the political spectrum. Therefore President Gašparovič, closer to the Social Democrats in opposition at the time, opposed to the appointment of the right-wing candidate elected Prosecutor in this dubious manner. He filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court and refused to act before the verdict. However, Slovakia is a parliamentary republic, therefore the President's role is merely representative and symbolic. He is the moral guardian of the institutions. Hence the second question of whether his actions are in breach of the Constitution.

*A legitimate and morally justified presidential refusal

 Finally, the Constitutional Court has declared that the President in has acted in accordance with the Constitution. Thus, the President has the right to refuse the nomination of an elected candidate for "serious reasons" relative to the person of the candidate. However, this refusal cannot be arbitrary. That being said, the behaviour of the Presidpressuring deputies. The principle of the secret ballot was not respected. A symptomatic act of these manoeuvres was the declaration of the Prime minister of the time, Ms. Radicova. She threatened to resign and bring down the government if "their" candidate was not elected. Then, during the very same election, changing the voting process has modified the conditions for the two candidates, establishing new terms reminiscent of the communist era.

However, this breach of the democratic process cannot be attributed to M.Čentéš in person even if he cooperated closely with the coalition by withdrawing his candidacy in the middle of the election to allow the changing of the election process. Thus, the final decision of the President to refuse to appoint M.Čentéš, even if morally well-founded, is difficult to support with legal arguments. Because according to the decision of the Court, the serious reasons justifying the refusal of nomination must be explicitly linked to the "person" of the candidate. However, the suspicious "case of shredding" should be mentioned here. Indeed, the testimony of a deputee on corrupt political practices had been "accidentally" destroyed by ... M.Čentéš. Does this incident fall outside the category of reasonable doubt regarding the person of the candidate?

For concerning the election itself, no manoeuvre has been officially identified by the Court. Therefore it considered the election to be legal. However, millions of Slovaks watched this charade with irritation. Isn't it precisely the President's role as guardian of the institutions, to oppose to what seems illegitimate even under a facade of legality?

*Dismissal, a disproportionate measure

Meanwhile the parties of the 'coalition', originally opposing the President, went into opposition after the general public repudiation after the early elections. Thanks to the final refusal of the President to nominate their candidate for Prosecutor, the opposition parties have had the opportunity to return to the stage. For ever since the overwhelming victory of SMER-SD (the Social Democratic Party), still scoring around 45% in the polls in December, the right-wing remained rather defensive, plagued by infighting. The leaders of the right-wing were outraged by the response of the President, which they considered "arbitrary" - hence the justification for the attempt to remove President Gašparovič. Or rather to incriminate him in the Parliament and terminate his mandate through the "impeachment" procedure. From the beginning, it was nothing more than a somewhat desperate attempt to attract public attention, since their position was not really heard in the Parliament. However, the intention of the opposition was to hide behind such a "moral" fight its actual inability to cope with what has become "mainstream" politics of SMER, and its inability to oppose it in a constructive manner. Once again... Meanwhile, the media around the right-wing parties began a particularly low campaign of popular excitement, implicitly accusing the President of having shot his friend to death, who died by accident in unclear circumstances while hunting. In the context of a real "hunt" for the President, the case of the Prosecutor's nomination is the icing on the cake.

*Lack of political culture, the sign of a young democracy

 However, it was Robert Fico, the current Prime Minister, who pointed out that the whole affair was desecrating a symbol, the honorary post of the President, more than the actual person of the President. According to his analysis of the situation, the actions represented a kind of attack to the State in the sense that such use of such disproportionate measures to the situation damaged the image of the country, which was otherwise a stable entity. All this just for petty, personal political interests. This case demonstrates once again the immaturity of the political representation of this still young post-communist state where the respect towards democratic institutions and democratic culture are not yet rooted within society. Thus, in everyday politics, rough behavior and almost automatic recourse to exceptional instruments is still very present. This case is symptomatic of the problems of young democracies, disappointing us even more because it occurs at the time of the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the independence of Slovakia. Once again our politicians have proven their narrow-mindedness.

A step back for the young democracy

Alica Hulakova | translated by: Kummer Lívia | 2013. June 12. 17:05

The Presidential decision to refuse the appointment of Jozef Čentéš as Attorney General is, from a legal point of view, one of the milestone decisions in the history of the independent Slovak Republic.

Almost two years have passed since the election of Jozef Centes to the post of Attorney General by the National Council (the Parliament) of the Slovak Republic.

Jozef Čentéš was statutorily elected as Attorney General on June 17th, 2011. The President, Ivan Gašparovič, did not approve of his election and he finally refused to officially confirm his nomination to this post early February.

The Constitutional Court has confirmed that the election was legal. In addition, Jozef Čentéš claimed: "I meet the necessary conditions required by law to fill this function. I know of no compelling reason which could prevent me from filling in this position."

Nevertheless, the Slovak President brought against him moral criteria that the candidate "did not meet" but which were non the less not included in the Slovak Constitution. The Constitutional Court ruled in October of last year that the President has an obligation to follow through with the proposal of the National Council of the Slovak Republic. However, he did do that after the vote of the National Council. Following the decision of the Constitutional Court, the President found himself obliged to either appoint Jozef Čentéš as Attorney General or to report to the Parliament that he will not do it. The final decision was made, according to the spokesperson of the President: "Čentéš is out of the game."

*"Minority" decision, obscure motivations

The President also questions the voting process itself, even if it has been previously approved by the Constitutional Court. However, Jozef Centes, does not want to surrender. He want to first turn to the Constitutional Court and if necessary to the European Court.

The Slovak people oppose this in their own way. According to the survey done by the MVK agency, since last October, the number of people who think that the President "causes serious problems and conducts petty politics" rose up to 17.2% compared to 4.4% in the previous survey.

As there is no legal reason, according to Lucia Žitňanská, former Minister of Justice, for the non-appointment of Jozef Centes as Attorney General, it was merely an attempt to save time. The opposition is of the same opinion and the Chief Ordinary People, Igor Matovic, expresses his view:"Keeping in mind that the President is like a member of SMER-SD (Social Democratic Party) he cannot imagine an honest man on the post of the Attorney General. This would be very dangerous both for him and for SMER. "

*A president who exceeded its powers

Strengthening of presidential powers has given too much security to the latter. Keeping in mind that normally the President has the right not to appoint a candidate to a post only if he does not fulfill the obligations required by law. A law in which the question of morality in not included.

Therefore, it is possible to view this case as the President exceeding the powers conferred onto him by the Constitution. In addition, the Attorney General is responsible to the Parliament and not to the President.

*The ghost of "communism"

When the petition against the non-appointment of Jozef Čentéš to the post of Attorney General lacked signatures, Magda Vášáryová, former depute and diplomat, issued a very clear statement. According to her, people are afraid that SMER-SD would fire them of their jobs if they signed. So not only does SMER have the "monopoly of power" on the Slovak political scene but the general feeling in the country is, that the power of the party goes well beyond simple political bundaries.

This gives the impression that "a ghost of communism" is haunting the country again. And all opponents will be punished in one way or another

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

The state of votes

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A justified presidential refusal

Kristina Londakova|translated by: Kummer Lívia

A step back for the young democracy

Alica Hulakova| translated by: Kummer Lívia

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