President Quietly Appoints Contested New Attorney General
President Ivan Gasparovic has swiftly, and almost secretly, sealed the deal concerning the appointment of a new Attorney General, handing the powerful post to Jaromir Ciznar, after over two years of stalling and defying public and media pressure and various rulings calling for him to appoint Jozef Centes, who was duly voted into the post exactly 25 months ago, but who Gasparovic refused to appoint on subjective reasons.
The new AG Ciznar was the candidate of the ruling standalone government party Smer-SD with the vote going ahead in the absence of opposition MPs last month, as the case on the non-appointment of Centes is still pending at the Constitutional Court.
The pending case didn’t interest Prime Minister Robert Fico and his (S)merry men from steamrolling Ciznar into the post with their parliamentary majority (82 from 150 MPs), reassured by the undisputed endorsement of an accommodating president.
As if the whole crony charade over the past 2.5 years hasn’t been bad enough, President Gasparovic in his almighty wisdom even tried to hold the important and disputed act and ceremony in secret by not informing any media about the appointment in advance. In an ironic speech to Ciznar, Gasparovic said “I’ve evaluated the legal aspects, and other aspects, that may pose an obstacle to your appointment. I have determined that no such grounds exist, which is why I decided as I did”.
The appointment culminates the 2.5 year battle to fill the post with someone who was suitable for the president and the prime minister, which Jozef Centes was not, as he was voted into the post by opposition MPs from the former four-party government coalition of ex-PM Iveta Radicova.
Current Prime Minister Robert Fico wasted no time in declaring how the Attorney General post had finally been filled in a constitutional manner, bringing an end to an “issue that had been traumatising society” for some time.
The newly appointed AG Ciznar made it clear even before the appointment that he would not relinquish the key post even if the Constitutional Court rules that Jozef Centes should have been appointed and that President Gasparovic had no right to refuse the appointment. After his appointment today, Ciznar noted that one of his first tasks would be to make organisational and personnel changes, which hardly comes as a surprise.
Although everyone should be grateful that the ‘trauma’ is now over, this is obviously not the case for the opposition MPs who elected Centes to the post two years ago and who have been battling for justice ever since.
Head of the Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS) Richard Sulik said the president would have been just as well appointing Ciznar at night, while referring to the whole sordid affair as unprecedented and as a black day for Slovak history. Former justice minister with the SDKU party Lucia Zitnanska noted how the institutions of democracy could still theoretically overturn the contested appointment, but that they had failed to deal with it to date.
The presidential elections are due next year, but outgoing President Gasparovic can no longer run, spelling an end to a very long career in Slovak political life. The hope for many is that it is the end of an era of blatant arrogance, where the principles of democracy and the rule of law came secondary to partisan interests and where those in power can do what they want.
This will now all depend on the outcome of next year’s presidential elections, but with the opposition still splintered over which candidates to support, the indications are growing stronger that current PM Fico may occupy the post himself with ease, and so keep the status quo where the government and president work fantastically well together, for the good of all society, of course.