Slovak President Zuzana Caputova set the date for the referendum on early elections as January 21, 2023. The referendum was triggered by a petition circulated by the opposition party Smer-SD of ex-premier Robert Fico in the summer in an effort to oust the cabinet of Prime Minister Eduard Heger.
“I won’t call on the citizens to take part in the referendum, and I won’t discourage them from taking part in it”, said Caputova, adding that the referendum is a result of a political campaign of one specific political party.
Caputova referred the first question in the petition to the Constitutional Court which upheld its previous rulings on a similar referendum also initiated by Smer-SD and said on October 26 that the first question asking whether citizens wish the current cabinet to resign is unconstitutional.
In 2021 the constitutional court ruled that referenda or any other measures not stipulated in the constitution cannot end the term during which a public institution is exercising its power.
“The referendum would be about an order to the cabinet to file its resignation”, said the chairman of the court Ivan Fiacan in a statement on the October 26, ruling adding that this is in contradiction with the constitution.
“If a referendum with such a question is held and the proposal is ratified then the result would intervene with the legal relations between the Slovak National Assembly [parliament] and the government stipulated by the constitution”, explained judge rapporteur Rastislav Kassak.
The second question in the petition asks “Do you agree that the parliamentary term can be ended by a referendum or by the parliament [National Assembly]?” and will be effectively a referendum on the possibility of shortening the parliamentary term.
Since the petition was started Heger’s coalition nearly collapsed after the libertarian SaS left it and Heger is now heading a minority cabinet with uncertain prospects of pushing ahead with its agenda or passing measures to combat the energy crisis. Conflicting views on these measures were at the core of the coaltion rift, together with personal animosity between SaS and OLaNO party leaders Richard Sulik and Igor Matovic respectively.
The opposition Hlas-SD, which is top of the polls, said it respects the date of the referendum but called on constitutional changes to be addressed in parliament. Legislators should not “pass over their responsibility in such an important question to Slovak citizens”, reads the Hlas-SD statement.
SaS and OLaNO politicians said they also respect the January referendum but stressed that it is a pointless waste of public money. SaS vice chairman and ex-minister of education Branislav Grohling said expenses “should be billed to the Smer-SD party” adding that it is “useless waste of money on an absurd question”. All but one Slovak referendums have failed because of a lack of quorum.