Constitutional Court cancels early elections in breakthrough ruling

Pavel Rychetský, photo: CTK

The Czech Constitutional Court upheld a complaint by an independent MP on Thursday, cancelling the holding of early general elections planned for early October. The court said that the constitutional amendment which shortened the current term of the Chamber of Deputies was itself a breach of the constitution. Legislators have reacted quickly – saying they will amend the constitution to allow the holding of early elections in November.

Chairman of the Constitutional Court Pavel Rychetský read the verdict on Thursday that early general elections, planned for October 9 and 10, were cancelled. The court upheld a complaint by independent MP Miloš Melčák who claimed that early elections breached his constitutional right to serve out his mandate in full, and that the elections were organised in breach of the constitution.

Pavel Rychetský, photo: CTK
In a breakthrough ruling, the court said the one-off constitutional act, passed by Parliament in May, breached what the judges call the “material core” of the Czech constitution. This is also the answer to those who argued the court cannot review constitutional acts. It can, according to Justice Rychetský, whenever they are in breach of this material core. Political analyst Petr Just says the ruling is an important lesson for Czech politicians.

“The Constitutional Court in fact pointed out that Czech politicians did not treat the constitution in a way it deserves. It’s supposed to be a long-term strategic document, amended as little as possible, and only in serious in serious issues and definitely not on a ‘daily basis’ whenever it’s good for politicians.”

The verdict came in the middle of the election campaign, and most politicians did not hide their disappointment. President Václav Klaus said the time is near for re-defining the role and jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court. But others are focussing on organizing the elections at a nearest possible date. On Friday, the lower house passed a bill that would permanently amend the constitution. If it enters into force, the lower house would dissolve, and new elections would take place, if three fifths of MPs pass a motion to that end. The head of the Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolánek, is confident that this will solve the issue.

“We have prepared a solution that opens the door to the elections on a new date in the near future. According to the lawyers of the lower house, the Senate and the government, this solution does not contradict the constitution. The solution is on the table; let’s look ahead.”

Miloš Melčák, photo: CTK
If all goes according to plan, the Senate will approve the amendment on Friday or Saturday and the President will immediately sign it into law. Political analyst Petr Just again.

“If all the steps are taken, it’s still possible to hold the elections at the beginning of November. Politicians mostly mention November 6 and 7, the first weekend in that month. I think it’s quite possible that it will happen.”