MPs Override President’s Veto and Approve Restrictions in House Again

Parliamentary plenum (stock photo by TASR)

Bratislava, December 6 (TASR) – Banners, leaflets and audio-visual presentations won’t be allowed during parliamentary sessions any more, as MPs on Tuesday once again passed an amendment to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, overturning President Andrej Kiska’s veto with 79 votes.

The highly controversial amendment to the Rules of Procedure introduces time limits on speeches given by legislators, parliamentary vice-chairs and ministers, while the time allotted to the president, prime minister and parliamentary chair won’t be restricted. The parliamentary chair will also be allowed to launch disciplinary proceedings against unruly MPs.

The Slovak head of state vetoed the amendment in November, as he saw the possibility of it being used to interfere in political rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Slovak Constitution. Moreover, he didn’t like the amendment because it could be viewed as inappropriate political duress on the part of the current coalition majority aimed at restricting the effectiveness of the Opposition’s activities.

The amendment was proposed by coalition MPs from Smer-SD, the Slovak National Party (SNS) and Most-Hid, and it was originally initiated by Parliamentary Chairman Andrej Danko (SNS). All lawmakers present from the aforementioned parties plus Alena Basistova (Siet/Network) and Independent MPs Martina Simkovicova, Peter Marcek and Rastislav Holubek voted in favour at Tuesday’s session.

In line with the newly approved amendment, legislators speaking on behalf of a caucus will have 30 minutes to make their points, while those who are responsible for submitting a proposal will have unlimited time. Moreover, ministers and parliamentary vice-chairs will have only 20 minutes to speak. An exception will be accorded to them if they face a call for their dismissal.

In addition, the amendment has introduced a ban on banners, posters, leaflets and other audio-visual presentations as well as on all materials promoting one political party or another. Legislators will also be prohibited from taking photographs, making sound or audio-visual recordings or facilitating any kind of audio-visual transmission of parliamentary sessions. Only the Parliament Office and media will be allowed to do this.

The Opposition doesn’t agree with the changes. It fears that the coalition will take advantage of the new rules and use them against it. The coalition rejects such claims, stating that it wants to improve the political culture in the House and make sessions more effective.