Slovakia’s top court dismisses referendum on early election

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s top court ruled Wednesday that a nationwide referendum cannot be held on whether to call an early parliamentary election.

President Zuzana Caputova had asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the matter after over 585,000 Slovak citizens signed petitions calling for the snap vote, which the political opposition proposed over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

At least 350,000 signatures are needed to qualify a referendum in the country of 5.4 million. If a majority voted yes in the proposed election referendum, a new parliamentary ballot would have to be held in 180 days.

Slovakia’s next regular general election is scheduled for 2024.

Justice Minister Maria Kolikova and some leading law experts doubted that such a referendum would be in line with the rule of law and advised the president to turn to the Constitutional Court.

The court agreed the proposed vote would not conform with the Constitution because it would “violate the character of Slovakia as a democratic state with the rule of law,” chief judge Ivan Fiacan said.

Parliament would have to amend the Constitution to specifically allow such a referendum, the court said.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said he respected the ruling, which cannot be appealed, while opposition politicians condemned it. Ervin Erdelyi, the head of the petition committee that was gathering the signatures, said he would study the ruling before deciding on further steps.

Slovakia’s last election in February 2020 resulted in the formation of a four-party coalition government led by populist Prime Minister Igor Matovic.

A secret deal orchestrated by the prime minister for Slovakia to purchase 2 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine triggered a political crisis in March that resulted in Matovic’s government becoming the first in Europe to collapse due to its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

A new Cabinet sworn in in April kept the same four-party coalition in power.

Only one referendum in the country’s history, on European Union membership, produced a valid result. All others failed due to low turnout.

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