Just after 12.30 today parliamentary chairman Richard Sulik opened the session that was to vote on the Attorney General post, but not without problems once again as one of the two candidates withdrew and the opposition are calling for the session to be cancelled altogether.
Just half an hour before the session was due to begin, former AG and candidate of Smer-SD for the post, Dobroslav Trnka, withdrew his candidacy on grounds that the vote was taking place before the Constitutional Court issued a decision on the recent change of provisions in the Rules of Procedure. This therefore makes the vote contestable.
The vote today was supposed to be public after the government changed the Rules of Procedure, but this was opposed at the Constitutional Court by acting Attorney General Ladislav Tichy. The court issued a preliminary injunction that no open vote could take place until a verdict had been issued on the constitutionality of the change, and so a secret vote is taking place instead.
Parliamentary chairman Sulik commented earlier on the extreme measures that certain people had gone to just to ensure that the vote is not made public, saying parliament had never “experienced such an extent of measures aimed at maintaining secrecy” and adding that the court’s verdict had been politically guided. On Trnka’s sudden withdrawal, Sulik said merely that it was “his decision and his right” but that there was “absolutely no reason for the vote not to go ahead”.
Through another clever bit of manipulation, the Smer-SD party of Robert Fico tried to put off the vote by its MPs signing up for their right to debate the issue and so extend the session, hoping to keep this up until the Constitutional Court officially promulgates its decision.
Pavol Paska from Smer-SD said the coalition was “undermining democracy and the constitution” and that the vote should be cancelled, while Jan Slota from the other opposition party SNS said their MPs would leave the house if the vote were to go ahead. Slota expressed his disgust at the never-ending story over the AG post because of wranglings in parliament.
Just after 2pm, MPs voted for the debate on the AG vote to continue for two 12-hour sessions in order to allow enough time for speakers to say their part, meaning the debate would continue also at the weekend. Parliamentary chairman Sulik, though, split up the allocated time among all parties represented in parliament, which means just 4 hours and 57 minutes for the Smer-SD party.
Because of the time limitation imposed, in the end only deputy chairman of Smer-SD Pavol Paska registered as a speaker, so he has now set off on what would be the marathon debate of his life over the space of the 4.5 hours designated to his party.
The secret vote eventually went ahead without the participation of the opposition, with the coalition candidate Jozef Centes being voted in as Attorney General with 79 of 80 present votes.
Centes, who said he was happy with the outcome, should now be assigned to the post by president Ivan Gasparovic, but Gasparovic says he has no intention of supporting anyone voted to the post in such a way. We can be sure that the President together with the opposition will pull out every trick in the Slovak legislative book to have the vote disqualified.
Parliamentary chairman Sulik declared the vote valid, while making reference to how the opposition were now crapping in their pants because of “all the things they have done and the affairs that have been swept under the carpet”.