Is it time to change the Czech Constitution?
Appointing Jan Fisher the country’s new prime minister on Thursday, President Klaus expressed satisfaction with the speedy solution to the country’s political crisis. Yet the way in which this was achieved has sparked controversy between the country’s constitutional experts and Prague Castle.
However Constitutional experts are far more concerned about a different aspect of the proceedings – the fact that instead of selecting the country’s next prime minister President Klaus said he would appoint whoever brought him 101 signatures - a guarantee of majority support in the lower house. Analysts point out that in this way deputies in the lower house are pledging to support a government that has not even been set up. On Thursday Vojtěch Cepl, a former constitutional judge who had a lion’s share in producing the Czech Constitution slammed the President for not respecting it.
“The President simply cannot set down conditions of this kind – he must always proceed in line with the Czech Constitution – that is the basis of any democratic, legal state.”
The president was quick to fire back, telling Mr. Cepl and other critics that this was a political decision and advising them to stick to their field of expertise.
“Absolutely. I think there are several problems in the Czech Constitution, which was created very quickly at the end of 1992 when Czechoslovakia was falling apart and the Czech Republic, which was going to emerge on January 1st, needed its own constitution. The result of this need for speed is that there are some really weak points in the Czech Constitution and one of them is the inability to trigger early elections. There are various mechanisms which exist in various parliamentary democracies ranging from bigger powers for the president who can dissolve parliament under certain circumstances and call early elections - to the Polish model where the assembly can pass a law requiring a certain majority under which parliament is dissolved and then this motion goes to the president who – if he signs it – automatically triggers early elections. We do not have anything like that and I think it is really hindering the functioning of the Czech political system.”