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Okamura: SPD wants referendum bill passed, even modified version

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Prague, Feb 27 (CTK) – The Czech Freedom and Democracy (SPD) is ready to make modifications in its bill on general referendum, though it disagrees with them, SPD head Tomio Okamura said in the lower house on Tuesday, adding that parties’ criticism of the bill is nothing but their excuses marring the introduction of referendum.

The bill, in a modified version, is also wanted by President Milos Zeman, Okamura said.

He said parties’ efforts to have the bill rejected in the first reading show their unwillingness to promote genuine democracy.

His lash-outs have been dismissed by the Pirates and the Civic Democrats (ODS).

The Chamber of Deputies interrupted the debate on the closely watched bill, which caused controversies on the Czech scene and attracted media attention of late, after a two-hour debate pending its next session.

“It is high time for us to introduce democracy here and bring the nation to it. If we live in an oligarchy of parties, which makes monopoly decisions for people, we will never make the citizens feel responsible for their homeland,” Okamura said.

“The system of representation forces citizens trust the elites and it forces the elites to manipulate, corrupt and cheat the crowd in order to gain votes,” Okamura said.

ODS chairman Petr Fiala said Okamura’s statements were a combination of demagoguery, misinterpretations and offences targeting the people who govern through the bodies of the legislative, executive and judicial powers.

Okamura’s allegation that direct democracy is higher and better than representative democracy amounts to demagoguery, Fiala said.

Lawmaker Mikulas Ferjencik (Pirates) said Okamura “handled facts rather “creatively.”

The SPD’s bill proposes that 100,000 voters’ signatures be enough to initiate a general referendum, which could decide on almost anything and its result would be binding regardless of turnout.

Okamura said the SPD is ready to delete budget- and tax-related issues as well as Czech departure from NATO and the EU as questions that can be subjected to a referendum.

He said Zeman would enable Czech departure from the EU to be decided on by people in a referendum. Nevertheless, Zeman would raise the number of people’s signatures required for calling a referendum to 250,000, a number the Communist Party (KSCM) also supports.

The Pirates want the quorum for the constitutional referendum, which would decide on crucial issues, to be set at 300,000 – 500,000, while ANO, the strongest party in parliament, demands 700,000 signatures and turnout of 30-35 percent at least for a referendum to be valid.

The Social Democrats (CSSD) have proposed 850,000 signatures as the lowest limit required for calling a referendum.

The general referendum bill is a constitutional bill which needs support from the constitutional majority of three-fifths of deputies (at least 120 out of the total 200) to make it through the lower house and three-fifths of senators (49 out of the total 81) to make it through the upper house.

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