After months of wrestling between the opposition and the government coalition, on Friday the coalition finally appointed Jozef Centes to the post of Attorney General, but it still remains to be seen if the workings of the Slovak legal system will not revoke the vote.
The problem lies in the fact that the Constitutional Court still has to issue a decision on the constitutionality of the recent amendment to the Rules of Procedure, which tried to turn the vote from a secret one into a public one. Friday’s vote was eventually done by secret ballot, though, meaning it complied with the previous state of affairs, and so should be deemed valid.
The opposition candidate Dobroslav Trnka withdrew from the race less than an hour before the vote, but it seems that even if he had taken part, the outcome would have been the same, regardless of whether the vote was public or secret. Many are asking why he took the decision at a stroke to midnight. The opposition, and possibly Trnka, possibly realised that the coalition was united and in a position to vote in its candidate and so tried to question the vote as a last straw of hope.
After the vote, which thanks to a staged walkout by the opposition saw Centes get 79 of 80 present votes, parliamentary chairman Richard Sulik said he expected President Ivan Gasparovic to fulfill his constitutional duty and officially appoint Centes as Attorney General.
Even so, President Gasparovic said he would like to wait on the ruling of the Constitutional Court before making a decision to appoint Centes, but that could take months. Gasparovic is known for being very ‘supportive’ of opposition party Smer-SD, so his ‘reasoning’ was only to be expected. Sulik says there is no justification in him waiting for a ruling as the only thing the court was examining was whether the vote should be public or secret.
Naturally, the reactions from the opposition bench were not the most favourable, with opposition leader from Smer-SD, Robert Fico, calling it a “black day in Slovakia’s history”. Fico believes Centes will be the government’s puppet in one of the most powerful posts in the country.
Fico is afraid that the opposition will be bullied and harassed, while Sulik says they are terrified of being held liable for all the stuff that has been done and swept under the carpet.
After the vote, freshly elected AG Jozef Centes said his vision for the Attorney General’s Office differed from that of Trnka, whose fate at the office is, at least officially, now in the hands of Centes.