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The President Has Called The Lottery Game, For Which She Herself Voted In The Referendum, Unconstitutional

“The most bizarre presidential task since the establishment of Slovenia, the drawing of lottery balls for the length of the terms of office of the Programme Council of Radio-Television Slovenia, is done,” Nataša Pirc Musar, President of the Republic, wrote after her first presidential task – the drawing of lottery balls for the length of the terms of office of the members of the Programme Council of the national media outlet Radio-Television Slovenia (RTV Slovenia). What might be even more bizarre than the draw itself is the fact that in the recent referendum, the President herself voted in favour of the law she is now criticising. “The President has just – quite directly – declared that the amendment to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act is unconstitutional. Well, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia will only start deciding on this tomorrow,” investigative journalist Bojan Požar commented on the President’s statement.

On Wednesday, the President of the Republic Nataša Pirc Musar – in accordance with the amendment to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act – drew lots for the members of the new 17-member Radio-Television Slovenia Programme Council, who will be appointed for a two- or four-year terms respectively. “The most bizarre presidential task since the establishment of Slovenia, the drawing of lottery balls for the length of the terms of office of the Programme Council of Radio-Television Slovenia, is done,” she wrote, appealing to all ministries and the legislative body not to impose powers on the office of the President of the Republic in the future, by laws or other regulations, which are not provided for in Article 107 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia. “The Constitution clearly stipulates (inter alia) that the President of the Republic appoints state officials when provided for by law, and he or she shall perform other duties only if they are provided for by the Constitution. The President of the Republic thus calls on those responsible for such decisions to consult the President of the Republic in the future, when drafting legislative amendments that would provide for powers of the President of the Republic of Slovenia to be added to or be different from those provided for in the Constitution,” she wrote.

In the run-up to the recent referendum on the Radio-Television Slovenia Act, Pirc Musar publicly supported the amendment, which will be heard for the first time tomorrow at the Constitutional Court, and boasted that she had already gone to the polls early. So, did she knowingly support an unconstitutional law, or did she not know that this is part of it, when she voted for it in the referendum? Perhaps she is just angry because the Lotto-style lottery draw was not the most presidential of jobs. “And above all, such laws should be put up for public debate and adopted through the ordinary procedure to rid them of this kind of nonsense, which was written by an inexperienced pen in the haste of drafting the law,” political scientist Miro Haček added in response to the President’s appeal that laws should not be used to give her powers that the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia does not provide for. The current President of the Programme Council, Peter Gregorčič, together with the initiators of the constitutional review, proposed that the amendment should be given absolute priority and that it should also be suspended for the time being, while the author of the initiative, lawyer Matej Avbelj, explained, among other things, that otherwise, irreversible consequences could arise.

Other Twitter users have also responded to the President’s comments. Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) MP Andrej Hoivik wrote: “Didn’t Dr Pirc Musar announce just a few days after the election that she voted IN FAVOUR of ‘such a bizarre presidential task?’ They must be making fun of us…” Another user who goes by the username “Carin” also pointed this out, asking Pirc Musar whether she did not know that the law was unconstitutional when she voted for it in the referendum. And Metod Logar simply added: “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the Republic of Slovenia!”

The MMC web portal reports that the drawing of lots for the duration of the mandates was carried out in public by President Nataša Pirc Musar. The first nine balls drawn represented the beneficiaries for the appointment or election of the members of the Programme Council of Radio-Television Slovenia, who will appoint or elect their members for a two-year term. The employees of RTV Slovenia will also elect their representative for two years, one will be chosen among the employees in cultural and artistic activities, and one among the employees in entertainment and sports activities. The Council will also include one representative of the Italian national community, of the Hungarian national community and of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Slovenska akademija znanosti in umetnosti – SAZU). The National Council for Culture will choose one representative among the members of cultural and artistic organisations and another on the basis of a public call for organisations in the audio-visual sector, the Council for Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection will choose one on the basis of a public call for organisations active in the field of environmental protection, nature and climate protection, and one representative will be chosen by the umbrella organisation of disabled people’s organisations. Representatives will be appointed for four years by RTV Slovenia’s employees and will be chosen from among those working in the field of information, from among those working in the field of technology, which includes transmitters and communications, and from among those working in the field of digital development. A representative will also be appointed by the Workers’ Council of the public institution RTV Slovenia, by the President of the Republic of Slovenia – on the basis of a public call for registered religious communities, the Slovenian Olympic Committee, the Information Commissioner on the basis of a public call to organisations active in the field of media, development of the information society and ensuring transparency, and the Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia on the basis of a public call to non-governmental organisations in the field of protection of human rights and freedoms.

Constitutional Court judges will start discussing the initiative for a constitutional review as soon as this Thursday

As already mentioned, an initiative for a constitutional review of the amendment to the RTV Slovenia Act has been submitted to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia. “If the Constitutional Court follows our arguments and declares the law unconstitutional, it will send a clear signal to every government that such completely arbitrary takeovers of public media are undemocratic and unacceptable,” Gregorčič said at a press conference. As of the date of the amendment to the law on Radio Television Slovenia’s entry into force, the mandate of the members of the institution’s Programme and Supervisory Boards, as well as of the director general and directors of the radio and television, will expire. The Programme and Supervisory Boards of RTV Slovenia will continue their work until a new 17-member Council of the institution is constituted, while the Director-General, Andrej Grah Whatmough, will continue to serve as acting Director-General until the appointment of a new four-member Management Board of the institution. The new Board, which will succeed the existing Programme and Supervisory Boards, must be established no later than 60 days after the amendment’s entry into force.

The amendment also terminates the mandates of the petitioners and abolishes the structures in which the petitioners operated – for example, the post of Director-General and the posts of the Programme and Supervisory Boards. If the Constitutional Court were to subsequently find the law unconstitutional, the petitioners would no longer be able to regain their positions in the bodies abolished by the amendment. The Legal Service of the National Assembly had already pointed out at the stage of the adoption of the law that the government had not fundamentally regulated the appointment of the individual members of the new Council with this amendment. This could lead to a situation where RTV Slovenia would be left without its full supervisory management bodies for a prolonged period of time, which could also jeopardise the provision of public service in the long term and further violate Article 39 of the Constitution.

Avbelj also pointed out, among other things, that Slovenia is not a majority democracy, where the government or the people can adopt anything in a referendum, but a constitutional democracy, where these decisions can only be implemented within the framework of the Constitution or within the constitutionally permissible possibilities. So: the fact that citizens voted in favour of a law in a referendum says nothing about the constitutionality of that law. Avbelj started this initiative because he noticed that Slovenia is also experiencing a constitutional decline or a trend towards authoritarian legalism. Avbelj also explained this authoritarian legalism with the example of the adoption of this amendment to the law – the government and the National Assembly want to change the management and governance structure of the institution by amending the legislation and terminate the mandates of the current members three years before they actually expire.

Sara Kovač

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