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Const. Court head: ČR not eligible for direct democracy

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Prague, Nov 3 (CTK) – The Czech Republic is not eligible to introduce direct democracy, including a general referendum, for the time being, Constitutional Court (US) chairman Pavel Rychetsky said during a debate on the 25-year anniversary of the constitution on Friday.

The country has not yet dealt with the questions whether and in what cases a general referendum is needed at all, he added.

Primarily the populist anti-immigration Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party, which fared fourth with 10.6 percent of the vote in the recent general election, is pushing for direct democracy. However, other parties and movements are calling for its elements, too.

“I am not an absolute enemy of a referendum, but we are not eligible for such a fundamental change since not a single of the key questions connected with it has been answered,” Rychetsky said.

He pointed out that except for Switzerland, referendum had nowhere worked as a permanent part of the state power execution.

A referendum is to be applied as an emergency tool if constitutional institutions end up in a collision, Rychetsky said.

Some of the unanswered questions are whether a referendum should only be consultative or directly decision-making, who would have the right to initiate a plebiscite and whether a turnout condition would be set and which one, Rychetsky added.

He pointed to the neighbouring Slovakia where none of the referenda held so far had been valid due to too low turnout.

Moreover, he said, it would have to be decided in what cases a referendum must not be held, he said.

“I can see problems now already. A referendum on the renewal of capital punishment, the result of which I can anticipate, would be devastating,” he said.

Rychetsky at the same time admitted that a referendum would be suitable about some fundamental issues, for instance, in foreign policy.

The debate on the constitution of the Czech Republic was organised by the Institute for Politics and Society that is connected with the election-winning ANO movement of Andrej Babis.

Rychetsky also said at the conference that in the current post-election situation, the provision under which a change to the fundamental requisites of the democratic rule of law is inadmissible became immensely important.

There is no urgent need to modify the constitutional system and the Constitutional Court is the supreme interpreter of the constitution’s texts, he stressed.

The SPD of Tomio Okamura is pushing for the broadest possible concept of a general referendum.

In the past election term, Okamura failed to push through a bill under which people could vote on almost everything in a plebiscite, while its results would be valid regardless of turnout. Besides, a petition with at least 100,000 signatures would suffice to hold a referendum, according to Okamura’s bill.

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