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HN: Czech politicians tend to challenge liberal safeguards

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Prague, Jan 11 (CTK) – Liberal elements in Czech legislation, aimed to secure the control of power and prevent its misuse, have been challenged by politicians, though the situation is still a far cry from Poland or Hungary with their dominant majorities, Petr Honzejk writes in Hospodarske noviny (HN) yesterday.
The bill on the electronic registration of sales (EET), whose passage is of key importance to the centre-left government but has been blocked by the opposition in parliament, will probably end up with the Constitutional Court (US). The government coalition has said it will cut the opposition´s obstructions, set a firm hour of the crucial vote and pass the bill at any circumstances, irrespective of the opposition´s protests, Honzejk writes.
If so, the opposition plans to challenge the vote with the US as one taken at variance with the Chamber of Deputies´ order of procedure, Honzejk writes.
The case will be difficult for the US to decide on. A violation of the order of procedure does not automatically mean that the passage of the EET bill is anti-constitutional, Honzejk writes.
The purpose of the order of procedure is not to secure the chance for anyone to block any bill. Rightist opposition chairman Miroslav Kalousek has only found a gap in legislation and used it cunningly. The question is whether the US will want to side with this cunning approach, Honzejk writes.
On the other hand, if the US nodded to the violation of the order of procedure, it would open the door to the practice of opposition being smashed by force, which could be dangerous, Honzejk writes.
Such a situation can be seen in Hungary and Poland, where the parliamentary majorities pass legislation that is not fully in harmony with liberal principles, Honzejk writes.
The Czech US judges definitely know that it is unadvisable to facilitate the governance excessively, since it could eventually turn against themselves, Honzejk writes, referring to Poland, where a single vote has changed the constitutional court into “a mere decorative institution.”
Nothing like this is happening in the Czech Republic, for the time being, but still the atmosphere is starting to change slowly and inconspicuously. The liberal elements that enable the control of power and prevent its misuse have been challenged in various ways, Honzejk writes.
President Milos Zeman has ignored laws, while Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) obviously finds parliament procedures bothersome. Both use arguments similar to those used by the Hungarian and Polish leaders, Viktor Orban and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, respectively. They say they have received their mandate from voters and would not allow their plans to be marred by anyone. This might result in the monopolisation of power regardless of the interests of political and other minorities, Honzejk writes.
The Czech US faces a dilemma. It should side with those who pull the brake in an effort to prevent misuse of power. However, in a situation where the brake is being pulled to stop something that does not jeopardise people´s rights and freedoms, it would be difficult for the US to argue in favour of it. Honzejk writes.
It would be the best if the EET vote were not brought to the US at all. Kalousek and [the other rightist opposition leader, Petr] Fiala (Civic Democrats, ODS) should realise that the consequences of their stubbornness may deprive the Czech Republic of an instrument that may be welcome one day when rights and freedoms would really get endangered, Honzejk writes, referring to parliamentary obstructions.
The ODS and TOP 09 should end their obstructions and enable the vote on the EET bill, he says.
As a result, the lower house´s order of procedure will remain as it is, for the benefit of possible future developments. TOP 09 and the ODS´s voters would definitely forgive this tactical retreat to them if based on the above argument, Honzejk concludes.

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