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The Christian Party Supports The Constitutional Changes Of The Left-Wing Government

With 11 votes in favour and five against, members of the Constitutional Commission of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia gave the green light to initiate the process of adopting constitutional amendments, with which the coalition proposes to transfer the power to appoint judges on the proposal of the Judicial Council from the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia to the President of the Republic. The constitutional amendments, which will consolidate the hegemony of the judiciary, also got the support of the New Slovenia party – the Christian Democrats (Nova Slovenija – NSi). An expert group is expected to prepare an opinion on the draft constitutional law by the end of April.

The draft constitutional amendments, which were submitted to the parliamentary procedure last September by the coalition parties the Freedom Movement (Gibanje Svoboda), the Social Democrats (Socialni demokrati – SD) and the Left (Levica), also foresee a three-year probationary period, so that judges would only take up a permanent mandate after that time. Support for the left in amending the Constitution has also been announced by the NSi party, where they are perfidiously supporting Golob’s coalition in exchange for certain personnel and business benefits for a narrow section of the party’s leadership.

At a recent meeting of the Constitutional Commission, a “group of experts” consisting of Dino Bauk, Janez Pogorelec, Ciril Ribičič, and Aleš Zalar proposed to the members of the Commission to start the process of constitutional amendments. As Zalar explained on behalf of the expert group, the proposed transfer of the appointment of judges from the National Assembly to the President of the Republic represents a significant improvement in terms of safeguarding the independence of judges and thus represents a departure from political considerations, as the President of the Republic will be bound by the proposal of the Judicial Council and could only reject it if the candidate did not meet the formally required conditions.

Regarding the three-year probationary period, the expert group noted that while the aim of this proposal is legitimate, as it addresses the issue of the professional competence of judges, it entails a number of risks. A permanent mandate is a fundamental guarantee of judicial independence and impartiality, and any time limit could jeopardise this, Zalar explained. The expert group, therefore, proposes to reform the existing system of entry into judicial service by introducing a special training programme for candidates linked to a probationary period, and then granting a judicial mandate only after the candidates have completed specialised training.

However, the expert group considered the proposal for a constitutional amendment introducing the compulsory dismissal of a judge if he/she violates the Constitution or the law as problematic, as it is not clear from the explanatory memorandum of the proposed amendments what is the reason for introducing the compulsory dismissal of a judge.

Slovenian Democratic Party warns of the dangers of the proposed amendments

The proposed constitutional amendments are strongly opposed by the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS), which remains the only serious opposition party. According to one of the party’s MP’s, Branko Grims, the proposed amendments will not lead to a more transparent and efficient judiciary, in line with the principles of the Slovenian Constitution, but will only “further entrench the side-lines of Slovenian justice.”It is an escalation of politicisation, excluding one part of politics, which of course also excludes part of the control that the procedure in the National Assembly can bring,” Grims believes.

His party colleague, Franc Breznik, also pointed out that in recent years, the National Assembly had only rejected the appointment of individual candidates proposed by the Judicial Council in exceptional cases. Jože Tanko (SDS) added that in the past, the presentations of the Judicial Council had been much more focused on the quality of the individual candidates, while other criteria had been neglected. In Breznik’s view, the proposed constitutional amendments are also worrying because they interfere with the supervisory role of the Parliament and the power relations between the three branches of government. The amendments would also, in his view, further deepen distrust in the Slovenian judiciary.

Andrej Žitnik

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