The Slovenia Times

Initiative submits petition for referendum on new Covid law


Ljubljana - The People's Coalition, an ad-hoc group opposing coronavirus restrictions, filed to parliament on Tuesday a petition for a referendum on the recently passed changes to the infectious diseases act. The group is unhappy the changes were fast-tracked through parliament, saying this amounted to excluding the public from the debate.

People's Coalition representatives collected more than the required 2,500 signatures, they said, highlighting that the discussion and vote on the amendments were "non-transparent and deliberately withdrawn from the public".

The changes to the infectious diseases act were passed last Wednesday in a 49:20 vote. They were supported by the coalition, whereas the opposition Democrats (SDS) voted against and New Slovenia (NSi) abstained.

The amendments were drafted by the NGO Legal Network for the Protection of Democracy and filed to parliament by coalition MPs to remedy the segments of the infectious diseases act deemed unconstitutional.

The new law places stricter limits on the government's ability to take action that could encroach on an individual's fundamental rights, introducing parliamentary oversight.

Before the vote on the changes took place, People's Coalition representatives gathered in front of the National Assembly protesting against the fast-tracking of the bill.

The People's Coalition brings together several groups and movements, including the Association for the Natural Development of Children, the Healthy Society Movement and the Masks Down initiative.

"It is our firm conviction that the adoption of any bill in the field of infectious diseases cannot and should not take place until an independent in-depth analysis of what has been happening over the past two years and the measures implemented has been carried out," they wrote at the time.

The Legal Network for the Protection of Democracy responded to the referendum petition by saying it was the proponents' right to file it, but added that a referendum on this bill might not be allowed. Under Slovenia's Constitution, a referendum is not allowed on legislation remedying unconstitutionality.

Katarina Bervar Sternad of the NGO said the argument that there was no public debate could not be the only reason for the referendum. The changes were drafted in November and there was a public debate when they were filed in parliamentary procedure during the previous National Assembly's term, she explained.

She believes fast-tracking the changes through parliament is sensible because in the autumn, the government will likely have to impose measures to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

If the petition is submitted in accordance with the law, the parliamentary speaker will set a deadline for collecting 40,000 voter signatures in support of the petition. The National Assembly calls a referendum if the petitioner submits the required number of signatures.


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