Parliament Declines to Call Referendums on Election Law, Istanbul Convention

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ZAGREB, February 15, 2019 – There will be no referendums on changes to the election law or on repealing the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the Croatian parliament decided by a majority vote on Friday.

With 105 votes in favour, 16 against and two abstentions, the parliament upheld the conclusion of its Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System which said that conditions had not been met to call the two nation-wide referendums, initiated by two civil society groups – The People Decide and The Truth About the Istanbul Convention.

Explaining its conclusion, the committee recalled that in July 2018 the parliament called on the government to check the number and authenticity of the collected signatures and the lawfulness of their collection, noting that the government has submitted a report from which it arises that the number of signatures required to call a referendum was not collected for either referendum.

“Those of us who have voted against, on behalf of the MOST party, will walk out of the session,” said MOST MP Robert Podolnjak.

The Constitution and the Constitutional Law on the Constitutional Court, under which the parliament must address the Constitutional Court on the matter and does not have the right to decide autonomously not to call a national referendum or that conditions for it have not been met, have been breached, said Podolnjak.

The parliamentary vote on the two referendums was also observed by representatives of the two civil society groups which over the past few months had been accusing the government of doing all in its power to prevent the two referendums.

The parliament’s vote prompted an ironic round of applause from observers of the two civil society groups.

There is significant difference between politicians, members of parliament and voyeurs, independent MP Marko Vučetić responded. “Voyeurs think that they can enter the area of other people’s privacy and personal information, they think that the status of an MP gives them the right to violate others’ right to privacy,” Vučetić said.

Boris Milošević of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), too, said that not enough signatures had been collected and referred those dissatisfied with that to the Personal Data Protection Agency (AZOP). “I regret that the referendum questions will not be discussed by the Constitutional Court because they would not pass the test of constitutionality,” said Milošević.

Among other things, the referendum petition for changing the election law proposed reducing the number of parliamentary seats for the Serb minority from three, which is how many seats the minority is now entitled to, to one seat.

Milorad Batinić of the Croatian People’s Party (HNS), a partner in the ruling majority, said that back in October last year his party had filed a report over unlawful activities during the campaign to collect signatures for the two referendums and signature forgery.

MP Hrvoje Zekanović of the HRAST party used the vote on repealing the Istanbul Convention to approach the speaker’s desk and put on it a T-shirt with the message “Two sexes, two genders”.

“Here is a T-shirt, not for you but for Prime Minister Andrej Plenković as a memento of the Istanbul Convention,” Zekanović told Speaker Gordan Jandroković. “You can wear it yourself, it will fit you nicely,” Jandroković countered.

More news on the referendums in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.


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