The 1998 Parliamentary Election Law of the Slovak Republic: Amendments in Controversy
On 20 May 1998, the National Council of the Slovak Republic (Parliament) amended Slovakia's parliamentary election law sending a wave of protest throughout the country and beyond. Not only did Slovakia's opposition parties raise their voices against the sudden amendments, but so too did the NGO and international communities - finding that many of the provisions in the laws were in direct contravention to international election standards and democratic principles. The Slovak opposition parties viewed the changes as an attempt by the ruling party to influence the parliamentary elections, which would be held later that same year. They also claimed that the new amendments benefited the incumbent parties and violated the Slovak Constitution. In addition, many protested the timing of the amendments since they were adopted only four months before the elections were expected to be held.
Before and after the law was passed, NGOs, international organizations, political analysts, politicians, and journalists published commentaries concerning the amendments. In addition, on 30 June, shortly after the law was enacted, 35 Members of Parliament (MPs) from among the opposition parties filed suit in Slovakia's Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the amendments. The complaint took issue with the provisions concerning the election campaign, substitutions in Parliament, the right of appeal, candidate lists, and others.
Even though these controversial amendments were passed in May 1998, the laws remain contentious a year later. And the debate promises to continue, at least through the year 2000 when the Parliament plans to revisit and revise the laws.
Much has been written on Slovakia's 1998 amendments and much more will likely be written as the issue heats up again. As such, this report is designed to provide interested readers with: a brief history of the 1998 parliamentary election law, the government in place at the time, the circumstances leading to the amendments, and the opposition parties' response. Also included is a comprehensive review of the laws at issue, a sampling of published commentaries, and a review of the Constitutional Court's decision on the suit filed by the MPs in June 1998. While this report attempts to provide a fair representation of the commentaries published to date, much of the relevant material written in Slovak could not be translated and were therefore out of the author's reach.
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