Friday, 24 November 2017

HN: Const.Court can prevent change of political system

ČTK |
2 November 2017

Prague, Nov 1 (CTK) - The Czech Constitutional Court (US) is ready to stop any attempt to radically change the political system and its bodies and avert all possible attacks on the Constitution, its chairman Pavel Rychetsky told Wednesday's issue of daily Hospodarske noviny (HN).

"The threat of people pinning their hopes on some kind of leader and the return to some form of an autocratic rule is latent in any democracy. I thus consider it a big success that our constitution is a very good project that has proved itself, despite the haste in which it was written," Rychetsky told the daily.

The next several months will show whether the fear of the threatening of the democratic legal system are justified or not. On Tuesday, President Milos Zeman entrusted ANO movement leader Andrej Babis with leading the talks on forming the next government. Traditional democratic parties refuse to support Babis's possible government, while the extremist Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) of Tomio Okamura and the Communists (KSCM) are more open in this respect, HN writes.

"Irrespective of what government is going to rule the country, the attempts at changing the constitution have been the strongest since the 1989 fall of the Czechoslovak communist regime," the paper writes.

President Zeman and future prime minister Babis would like to abolish the Senate and radically cut the number of members of the other house of Czech parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. Moreover, Babis talks about changing the electoral system to a majority system, arguing that it would be easier to form stable one-colour governments thanks to it. And more and more politicians, Babis and Okamura including, want decisions to be made in national referendums. An extreme possibility of this is a national vote on the departure from the European Union, HN writes.

But Rychetsky said effort to fundamentally change the constitution will face two barriers.

First, it is the Senate, whose consent is needed for any constitutional amendment to take place. This actually means that the Senate cannot be abolished without its own consent. Unlike in case of other bills, the Chamber of Deputies cannot override senators' veto of a constitutional bill, the paper writes.

Second, it is Article 9 of the Constitution that says "Any changes in the essential requirements for a democratic state governed by the rule of law are impermissible."

"The purpose of all constitutions is to protect the state against collisions and troubles that affected it in the past. I believe that this article tries to do it in a perfect way because it aims at the future," Rychetsky told HN.

He said only the US is authorised to interpret the above sentence.

HN writes that Rychetsky has recently repeatedly warned Zeman about the consequences of his possible steps.

Rychetsky said Zeman may face a constitutional complaint if he was hesitating to appoint a new government.

"The Constitutional Court ruled several times that any constitutional body, including the president, is obliged to execute some of its powers. We said that the body must decide without delay," he said.

HN notes that Rychetsky was a member of Zeman's socialist government at the turn of the millennium. When Zeman was elected president, he supported that Rychetsky keeps heading the US for another period. Zeman also gave Rychetsky more or less a free hand to pick his new colleagues in the US and he proposed his nominees to the Senate for approval.

It is important that the composition of the 15-member US is to remain unchanged until 2023, though the 74-year-old Rychetsky said he might leave in 2020.

Although Rychetsky and Zeman have friendly relations, they may turn into hard political enemies in the next few months. Zeman repeatedly showed that he may not respect the constitutional habits. In the direct presidential election in January, in which Zeman will be defending his post, it is the followers of Babis and Okamura who are likely to support him. It is the ANO and SPD movements that loudly call for changes to the Constitution, and Zeman adapts himself to this, the paper writes.

In the past, some politicians criticised the US for going beyond its powers and acting like a third house of parliament.

Copyright 2015 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK). All rights reserved.
Copying, dissemination or other publication of this article or parts thereof without the prior written consent of ČTK is expressly forbidden. The Prague Daily Monitor is not responsible for its content.