Former prime minister and head of main opposition party Smer-SD, Robert Fico, held a press conference yesterday at which he claimed the government was trying to take control of the judiciary so it could then quash social discontent if necessary.
Some would argue that this is a feeble argument, though, as the government is forging ahead with legislative changes and reshuffling in an attempt to rid the judiciary of crony and corrupt influences.
Fico is maybe preparing the ground for future attacks, as he says the government is trying to change the judiciary so it can persecute the opposition and that it is determined to get some opposition MP convicted so it can gain favour with the public.
The Slovak judiciary is predominantly occupied by people that were placed there under Robert Fico’s government, and the current coalition feels that the courts are prone to ruling in favour of the opposition’s wants. The government has a particular problem with Supreme Court chairman Stefan Harabin, who is often accused of particularly dubious practices, especially considering his position.
Fico’s claims came shortly after Prime Minister Iveta Radicova and justice minister Lucia Zitnanska held their own press conference, with Radicova praising highly the efforts of Zitnanska to change the system, which around 65% of the Slovak population say they do not trust according to the most recent survey.
Few people in Slovakia would probably refer to the Slovak justice system as neutral, thanks to continual dubious verdicts and procedural manipulations. No matter what side of the political spectrum you sit on, it would be hard to deny that the steps of the current government are going in the right direction to make the system more transparent and just.
These steps include the publication of court rulings on the internet from next year, which minister Zitnanska feels will cut down the number of questionable verdicts made. Another measure aimed at cutting down nepotist practices in the courts is the introduction of sanctions if cases are not allocated randomly.
The battle over the judiciary looks set to continue, but maybe time is running out for those who have enjoyed too much of a free hand for too long, as the iron fist of Zitnanska beats away at this almost impermeable rock.