Czech Constitutional Court upholds Havel´s critics

President Vaclav Havel

The Czech president Vaclav Havel has won one of his several legal battles against the Czech parliament. On Wednesday the Czech Constitutional court upheld most of president Havel´s recommended changes to a new law on the Czech National Bank. This latest legal battle has once again brought criticism from many who believe the Constitutional Court is not impartial enough. Lucie Krupickova has the story:

Vaclav Havel turned to the Constitutional court after the Lower House of Parliament overruled his veto on a new law which, according to Havel, would have given parliament too much control over the Czech National Bank. Based on the president´s proposal, the Court has approved most of the changes suggested by Vaclav Havel.

The Court also upheld the President´s right to choose the governor for the Czech National Bank. In November last year Havel appointed Zdenek Tuma, the former vice governor of the National Bank to the post of governor. The Social Democrat government said the appointment was invalid and unconstitutional, as they claimed that the appointment had to be countersigned by the prime minister for to be legal. However, the Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that the Czech constitution does not require this measure.

I asked political commentator Jiri Pehe, to what extent the Czech Constitutional Court plays the role of 'protector of democracy' in the Czech Republic?:

"The Constitutional Court is an institution that is supposed to make sure that regular laws are in line with the Constitution. I think that the way the Constitutional Court has handled president's complaints is a sign that the Constitutional court plays the role of the protector of democracy in this country."

During his second term, President Havel used his right to veto liberally, as he vetoed 12 of the bills proposed by the Czech parliament. As Vaclav Havel claims it's a necessary result of poor legislative work produced by Czech politicians. The Chairman of the Lower House and the leader of the strongest opposition party Vaclav Klaus is of a different opinion. He considers Havel ´s vetoes a direct attack on the basics of the country's democracy. According to Klaus the president should use his right of veto only about once every ten years. Commentator Jiri Pehe again:

"First the constitution does not say how often the president should use the veto and in fact if we take a look at the number of laws that president signs, he really vetoes very few laws. But obviously the president is also a protector of democracy, that's why he holds that position and it is his job to make sure that the laws that he signs are in line with the constitution. Nevertheless, it is a very useful exclamation mark, let´s say, when the president doesn't sign a law and although the Parliament usually overrides the president´s veto, it is at least on the record that the president does not like that law."

Author: Lucie Krupičková
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