The Slovenia Times

Constitutional changes initiated

The National Assembly's Constitutional Commission holds a maiden session to debate an initiative to amend the constitution.
Photo: Katja Kodba/STA

A special commission of the National Assembly tasked with examining proposed amendments to the Constitution has initiated proceedings aimed at reforming judicial appointments, the first of several changes that may come its way in the coming months.

Under the amendment, which has been put forward by the three government coalition parties, the appointment of judges would be transferred from the National Assembly to the president. The nomination of candidates would remain in the hands of the Judicial Council.

Another major change would be a three-year probation period before a judge would get life-long tenure. At present judges are appointed for life from the start, which has been criticised in the past.

The Constitutional Commission approved the initiation of proceedings on 30 March with 11 votes in favour and five against.

Report expected by end of April

A group of experts, consisting of Dino Bauk, a lawyer, Janez Pogorelec, who used to head the Government Office for Legislation, former Constitutional Court judge Ciril Ribičič and former justice minister Aleš Zalar will review the draft amendment and submit a report by the end of April.

Zalar said that moving the appointments from the National Assembly to the president would be a significant improvement in terms of independence of judges and would eliminate the political aspect from the process.

Touching on the planned probation period, Zalar said the expert group believed the objective of the measure was legitimate, but it would introduce a number of risks. A life tenure is the basic guarantee of a judge's independence and impartiality and a time limitation can jeopardise this.

Instead, the group proposes an overhaul of the existing system by introducing a special training programme for candidates, which would be a condition for the appointment.

The group does, however, not agree with the proposed mandatory dismissal of a judge found to have violated a law or the constitution, noting that the reason for such a proposal is not clear from the government's explanation.

The Democrats (SDS) being the only party opposed to the changes, there is a sufficient majority in the National Assembly to pass the amendments.

More proposals coming

Several more constitutional amendments are likely to be proposed, chief among them provisions that would simplify the appointment of the government by turning it into a one-step process that would be completed with the election of a prime minister.

The government has also indicated it might propose the scrapping of the National Council, the upper chamber of parliament, which has often been criticised as obsolete.

There has also been talk of changes that would reduce the workload of the Constitutional Court, and changes to electoral legislation, which can only be achieved through a constitutional amendment. Both issues have been under discussion for years.

An amendments to the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority. This means having to secure the votes of all government parties plus New Slovenia, or getting the Democrats, with 27 seats the second largest party in the 90-member legislature, on board.


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