Ex-Constitutional Court judge Pavel Varvařovský elected new Czech ombudsman

Pavel Varvařovský, photo: CTK

The lower house of Parliament has elected lawyer Pavel Varvařovský the new Czech ombudsman. The former Constitutional Court judge, who was nominated by the right-of-centre coalition, says he plans to build on the work of his predecessor, the late Otakar Motejl. Jan Richter has the details.

Pavel Varvařovský,  photo: CTK
In a second round of voting in the lower house on Tuesday, Pavel Varvařovský was elected the Czech Republic’s new ombudsman – the official charged with defending people who feel wronged by the authorities.

The 65-year-old lawyer and judge, who for a decade served on the Constitutional Court, will succeed the first ever Czech ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, a widely respected figure who passed away four months ago.

Speaking after his election, Mr Varvařovský said he was planning no major changes to an office shaped by his predecessor.

“I am a conservative person and I believe that in order for the law to get into people’s minds, it should not be changed at every opportunity.

“In very much the same way, I believe that institutions should not be changed whenever an opportunity comes along. So I think that we should continue in the way the powers of the ombudsman are set.”

Anna Šabatová
Pavel Varvařovský, who worked as a corporate lawyer before becoming a judge in 1992, is an expert on administrative and constitutional law. Those areas of expertise will serve him well in the new post, says Anna Šabatová, a former deputy ombudsman.

“These are the two areas of law that are crucial for the institution of the ombudsman; 95 percent of the agenda is related to administrative law.

“So we’ll have an expert there who can win the respect of his staff as well as the authorities. He was a corporate lawyer, and of course served on the Constitutional Court. This is an interesting and promising combination.”

There is one area, however, that the new ombudsman would like to change. In an address to the Senate two weeks ago, Mr Varvařovský said the office should have the authority to petition the Constitutional Court to abolish acts, a power it now lacks. But Ms Šabatová says this can easily change.

“He could do that if it was authorized by the law, and it would be good. But he can only now ask the Constitutional Court to abolish certain legal norms, such as ministerial directives.

Pavel Varvařovský,  photo: CTK
“But that can of course be changed by amending the act on the ombudsman. I personally think he should have that power, because it would reinforce his authority in the society.”

Pavel Varvařovský will be officially sworn in by the speaker of the lower house of Parliament by the end of next week.