Presidents to Be Elected in Parliament?

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Some believe that Croatia’s presidents should be elected in Parliament, have a longer term of office, and not be allowed to be re-elected.

Will future Croatian presidents be elected in Parliament, instead directly by voters? In recent days, the issue is back in the media focus. The current president and her predecessor are against such idea, but some support the proposal and go a step further. They want the term of office of president to be extended and presidents to be forbidden from being re-elected, reports N1 on February 20, 2017.

During pre-election campaigns, presidential candidates give all kind of promises, but president’s legal powers are actually quite limited. That is one of the reasons why there are demands for the presidents to be elected in Parliament. However, others disagree.

“Presidents should be elected by voters. I think that has been clearly demonstrated, especially in the two years of my term, when we had three different governments. It is extremely important to have a person who will not be under anybody’s political influence, who will preserve the stability of the state, and who will conduct consultations with political parties in an impartial way, so that the Constitution and the law are respected”, said the current President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

The current president’s opinion is shared by her predecessor, who says that direct election gives a president greater legitimacy. “Moving to a system where there would be absolutely no one with direct popular legitimacy would further reinforce the omnipotence of prime ministers. After all, could you imagine how would the army and secret services would operate if we had a prime minister who can actually control the president elected in parliament”, said former President Ivo Josipović.

Presidents have some formal powers defined by the constitution. These are: representing the state in Croatia and abroad, stability of state institutions, responsibility to defend the independence and territorial integrity, and coordination in directing the work of security services. However, all that is not enough for a president to have a more substantial influence on government’s policies. For example, president cannot refuse to sign a law, if he or she believes that its constitutionality should be reviewed.

“President must first sign the law, submit it for publication in Official Gazette, and only then can they send a request to the Constitutional Court to review its constitutionality”, said Robert Podolnjak, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution.

“I think it would be acceptable to introduce a temporary veto, so that a president can have a strong team and political influence, in order to be able to use a temporary veto to block a law and submit it to the Constitutional Court to review its constitutionality. In that way, we could avoid a situation where a law might come into force which should not have happened”, said member of Parliament Orsat Miljenić (SDP). However, due to limited powers, Miljenić believes that presidents should be elected in parliament.

Both Podolnjak and Miljenić agree that any such changes to the Constitution should be put to a referendum.


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