Changes to President’s Constitutional Powers Unlikely

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, September 16, 2019 – It is unlikely that the necessary parliamentary two-thirds majority will in the near future change the way the President of the Republic is elected and his/her constitutional powers, legal experts and experts on constitutional law said at a round table organised by the GONG election-monitoring non-governmental organisation in Zagreb on Monday, ahead of presidential elections.

Asked if the way the President is elected and the extent of his/her constitutional powers should be changed, the experts took different positions but were unanimous in the assessment that currently it would be very difficult to gather the parliamentary majority needed to change the way the President is elected and their constitutional powers, an idea advocated by conservative presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro.

Announcing recently that he would run for President, Škoro said that if elected, he would seek greater powers for himself, such as the possibility to call a referendum without the consent of the prime minister, call and chair government sessions, and nominate candidates for Constitutional Court judges.

Disagreement among participants in the round table was the greatest on the issue of electing the President in direct elections, with political scientist Goran Čular saying that the President of the Republic should be elected by the parliament.

Explaining his position, he cited the unnecessary tension caused by electoral support expressed in a large number of votes and the role in the political system the President was entitled to under the Constitution.

Conversely, legal expert Mato Palić sad that electing the President directly was a much better option than electing them by parliament, notably given the current ruling majority with members who, he said, had nonchalantly tricked their voters.

Palić said that a directly elected head of state should have more powers and have the right to veto laws as well as represent Croatia at sessions of the European Council.

As for the right to call referendums, Palić said that the numerous existing outstanding issues concerning referendums should be resolved, after which one could see if the President of the Republic should be given the right to call referendums.

Davor Boban of the Zagreb Faculty of Political Science, too, underlined the need to clearly define conditions for calling a referendum but warned that Croatia would set a precedent in Europe if it allowed its president to call a referendum on their own.

Political scientist Berto Šalaj responded to those views, warning that today’s round table was only an academic debate as there was no will in the parliament to vote in such constitutional changes.

Šalaj nonetheless agreed that the current model of electing the President directly is poor. “The disproportion between the President’s great democratic legitimacy and their small powers results in their political frustration, which jeopardises the efficiency of the political system,” Šalaj said.

Attending the round table were also members of parliament Arsen Bauk of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Robert Podolnjak of MOST, who agreed that it would be very difficult to muster the two-thirds majority support in the parliament to change the President’s constitutional powers as well as the way they are elected.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.


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