Slovakia

   

Quality of Democracy

#28
Key Findings
Despite generally fair and inclusive electoral procedures, Slovakia scores relatively poorly (rank 28) with respect to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.6 points since 2014.

Formal campaign-financing rules have been repeatedly strengthened. A cap on party donations was imposed in 2019, with the rule evidently targeted at a specific new party. Politicians have a new “right to reply” if they are criticized by the media. The movement galvanized by the murder of a journalist in 2018 continues to push for civil rights and political liberties.

Civil rights are largely respected. Conservative forces have banded together to oppose LGBTI rights and “gender ideology,” and to preserve “traditional family values.” Discrimination against women, LGTBI persons, migrants, and particularly Roma remains a problem. Judicial appointments are politicized and polarized.

A Justice Ministry campaign to improve transparency and fight corruption in the court system has improved the system, but levels of public trust in the court system remain low. Numerous justices have been shown to be entangled in the corruption network led by the man behind the journalist’s murder. Corruption in general remains a serious concern.

Electoral Processes

#4

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
10
The procedures for registering candidates and parties in Slovakia are fair and transparent. Regulations governing the electoral process were consolidated in the 2014 election code. Provisions regarding the registration of parties and candidates are liberal and ensure a fair registration procedure. Candidates for presidency must be nominated by at least 15 members of the unicameral National Council or document support from at least 15,000 voters. While independent candidates cannot run for office, candidate lists for parliamentary elections can be nominated by registered political parties, movements and coalitions. For registration, the nominating organizations must obtain 10,000 signatures and make a deposit of €17,000, which is returned only to candidate lists that receive at least 2% of the vote. In October 2018, parliament passed an amendment to the Act on Political Parties which changed the rules for the registration of parties for parliamentary elections and elections to the European Parliament. Under these new rules, the parties have to prove they have enough members and functional party bodies. That is, there must be twice as many members as the number of candidates on the slate or they need to have at least 45 members who, at the same time, are delegates of the party council. Promoted by the Slovak National Party (SNS), a junior coalition partner, the amendment was directed against parties that lack a formal membership base, such as Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), and We are Family – Boris Kollár (Sme rodina – Boris Kollár), or against parties that have less than 100 party members, such as Freedom and Solidarity (SaS). No affected party has yet challenged the amendment on grounds of discrimination, instead affected parties have recruited new members to fulfill the minimum requirement.

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
9
Slovakia’s media market is sufficiently pluralistic to ensure that all candidates and parties have fair access to the media. The law on elections calls for equal access to mass media for all candidates. The law also stipulates that no candidate should be favored over any other and that campaign advertising has to be clearly distinguished from other media content. The public broadcaster Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) has to introduce candidates and present their campaigns, while private media outlets have the freedom to do so. The 2019 presidential election campaign was supervised by the Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission (RVR), which did not report any serious violations. Fears that the politicization of RTVS under Jaroslav Rezník, its controversial director since August 2017, would lead to unbalanced coverage of the 2019 campaign proved to be unfounded.

However, concerns about equal access to the media have increased following attempts to introduce moratoriums on the broadcasting of political advertisements and publication of opinion poll results. Since the 2017 regional elections, TV and radio stations have not been allowed to broadcast political advertisements within 48 hours of an election. This ban has been criticized for its selectiveness in not including internet broadcasting or broadcasting from abroad. In October 2019, the Slovak parliament – with the votes of two of the three governing parties (Smer-SD and SNS) and the far-right opposition party ĽSNS – passed a bill prolonging the moratorium on the publication of opinion polls from the current 14 to 50 days before an election day, one of the longest moratoriums in the world. The bill provoked massive criticism, and was criticized by President Čaputová, Prime Minister Pellegrini and Ombudswoman Patakyová. While parliament overrode the president’s veto in November 2019, the Constitutional Court eventually declared the bill unconstitutional in December 2019.

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
9
The electoral process is largely inclusive. In principle, all adult citizens can participate in elections. There is a special electoral register for Slovak citizens without permanent residence in the country (i.e., homeless people). Since November 2009, only prisoners who have been sentenced for “particularly serious crimes” have been disenfranchised. Their number is estimated at about 1,600. Voters that will not be in their place of residence on election day can ask for a special voter’s pass that enables voting elsewhere on the territory of Slovakia. Slovak citizens who are abroad on election day can vote by mail in parliamentary elections. In contrast, citizens living abroad cannot participate in presidential elections, as the Ministry of Interior claims it is not able to manage two rounds of postal voting.

Citations:
No major changes.

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
6
After long debate and various failed attempts, new rules on campaign finance were eventually adopted in May 2014 and became effective in July 2015. In October 2018, further amendments to the Act on Political Parties were passed, some of them related to party financing. Financial gifts to political parties from a single donor can no longer exceed €300,000 a year. Other amendments have obliged parties to publish detailed information on loans accepted on their website and to open a central account at the State Treasury to which all financial contributions from the state will be transferred. In the 2020 general elections, parties are not allowed to spend more than €3 million, including VAT, on their campaigns. This sum also includes money spent on promotional materials more than 180 days before the announcement of the election day.

In July 2019, just eight months before the 2020 elections, the ruling coalition with the help of the far-right, extremist party ĽSNS and Sme Rodina hastily (in only two days) passed a further amendment on party financing. Following the amendment, political parties will only be allowed to accept €3.5 million in membership fees (which are limited to €10,000 for a single party member), donations and loans within a parliamentary term. This relatively low ceiling, which approximates the sum that a party receives from the state if it gains 5% of votes in an election, has complicated the financing of new parties. The amendment was widely perceived as being directed against Andrej Kiska, the former president, who founded the new party For the People (Za ľudí) at the end of September 2019.

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
8
The Slovak constitution provides far-reaching possibilities for citizens to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums (articles 93 – 100). Referendums are obligatory in the case of the country entering or withdrawing from an alliance with other states (like the European Union). Furthermore, a referendum can be called for in the case of “other important issues of public interest” (Article 93.2); referendums on basic rights and liberties, taxes, levies, and the state budget are forbidden (Article 93.3). There are two ways to call a referendum: by a resolution of the National Council or on the basis of a petition signed by a minimum of 350,000 citizens. The results of referendums are binding, and the constitutional barriers for changing the decisions are high; only a three-fifths majority in the National Council can overrule a decision made by referendum, and can do so only after three years (Article 99.1). Likewise, no referendum on the same issue can be held until three years have passed (Article 99.2). Similar provisions exist at the local level. In the period under review, however, no nationwide referendum was held, only several local ones took place along with the municipal elections.

Citations:
no changes.

Access to Information

#30

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
4
The murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in February 2018 has highlighted the limits to media freedom in Slovakia. Even after the murder, prominent persons in the government coalition continued to criticize and intimidate journalists. Media freedom has also suffered from the new law on the right to reply for politicians, passed in September 2019. The law has given politicians the right to receive a reply or have a correction published. If a media outlet fails to fulfill this right, it could be fined up to €5,000. A right to reply was originally introduced by the first government of Robert Fico in 2008, but then abolished by the Radičová government in 2011 following widespread domestic and international criticism of the resulting intimidation of journalists.

Citations:
German Sirotnikova, M. (2019): Never-Ending Story: The Fight for Media Freedom in Slovakia, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, August 8 (https://balkaninsight.com/2019/08/08/never-ending-story-the-fight-for-media-freedom-in-slovakia/).

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
6
As other East-Central European countries, Slovakia has experienced a passing of private media ownership from foreign owners to intransparent domestic owners. A large number of media outlets are now directly or indirectly controlled by a limited number of politically well-connected Slovak financial groups (such as Penta, Grafobal Group, and J&T). In autumn 2014, the Penta financial group entered the media market, buying 45% of Petit Press from the German Rheinisch Bergische Verlagsgesellschaft (RBVG), which publishes the Sme daily, Slovakia’s most influential political daily – a transaction finally approved by the Anti-Monopoly Office in June 2016. Penta, whose true owners are still unknown, has also acquired two other publishing houses, and controls the economic weekly Trend, the daily Plus Jeden Deň and the weekly Plus 7 Dní (the latter two of which are tabloids). In addition, it operates websites and purchases advertising space via its media agency. In 2018, however, Penta’s plans to purchase the media group Central European Media Enterprises (CME), which owns several TV stations in six central and eastern European countries, including the most watched private broadcaster in Slovakia, Markíza, failed. Instead, CME has been acquired by Czech businessman Petr Kellner in 2019. As a result, the television landscape is now controlled solely by Slovak and Czech owners. As it stands, only two of the original foreign media owners remain and both have substantially reduced their portfolio. After selling its print division, Ringier Axel Springer only owns Actuality.sk, the website for which the murdered journalist Kuciak worked. The Bauer Media Group still owns radio stations, but sold its magazine publications to the publishing house Mafra, which is owned by the Czech prime minister.

Citations:
Vašuta, T. (2019): Markíza is the last drop. Financiers have divided the media market among themselves, in: Slovak Spectator, October 30 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22248139/markiza-is-the-last-drop-financiers-have-divided-the-media-market-among-themselves.html).

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
7
Access to government information is guaranteed by the constitution and the Act on Free Access to Information (Infolaw), which was originally approved in 2000 and has been amended several times since. In mid-2015, parliament started to discuss an ambitious amendment which had been prepared by a commission established by the Ministry of Justice. Moreover, shortly before the parliamentary elections in March 2016, three prominent watchdog organizations (Transparency International Slovensko, Fair-Play Alliance, INEKO) lobbied for improvements in the Infolaw. In particular, they recommended subjecting companies that are fully owned by the state or municipalities to the Infolaw and making public the salaries and CVs of state nominees. Moreover, the agreements signed by the state and municipalities should be published at one place and the state should start to systematically connect the databases about public procurement, founding and ownership of companies, EU funds and owners of property. After the 2016 elections, Lucia Žitňanská, the minister of justice in the third Fico government who resigned after the murder of Ján Kuciak, prepared a draft amendment that incorporated most of these recommendations. However, the Pellegrini government has not pursued the issue.

Citations:
Školkay, A. (2015): Complex amendment to Slovakia’s FOI Act might make it one of the most liberal in Europe. LSE, Media Policy Project Blog, London (http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mediapolicyproject/2015/04/24/complex-amendment-to-slovakias-foi-act-might-make-it-one-of-the-most-liberal-in-europe/).

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#29

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
6
In Slovakia, civil rights are largely respected. However, the integrity of the judiciary and the long duration of court proceedings remain a problem, as do the police discrimination and mistreatment of the Roma population. New problems have emerged since conservative forces (including several Christian churches) formed an alliance, which opposes LGBTI rights and “gender ideology,” and promotes “traditional family” values. SNS leader Andrej Danko has helped to propel the issue to the top of the political agenda and succeeded in forging a majority for a parliamentary resolution asking the government not to ratify the Istanbul Convention.

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
8
In Slovakia, political rights are largely respected. Citizens can freely join independent political and civic groups. The murder of Kuciak and Kušnírová in February 2018 evoked the biggest protests since the Velvet revolution in 1989. The movement “For a Decent Slovakia,” which emerged from these protests, continued to organize rallies in 2019. The murder has evidently bolstered sensitivity for political liberties and the need to protect civil liberties. This new sensitivity was a key factor in Zuzana Čaputová’s presidential election victory in March 2019. A civil rights lawyer, having worked for many years for the NGO-watchdog VIA IURIS, Čaputová is expected to take a clear stance on political liberties.

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
5
While Slovakia has fairly sophisticated anti-discrimination legislation in place, the discrimination of women, Roma, LGBTI persons and migrants continues to be a major problem. The Roma population has suffered from the lack of access to adequate housing, the pervasive segregation of Roma children and their very high dropout levels in the education system, the excessive use of force by police officers during raids carried out in Roma settlements and various manifestations of hate speech. The new commissioner (government proxy) for Roma affairs appointed by the third Fico government (nominated by Most-Híd) has been only slowly gaining public support and political standing. A 2018 report of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) underlined the continuing discrimination of Roma and recommended measures to eliminate discrimination against members of the Roma minority. Moreover, CERD also expressed regret over the Slovak government ignoring its previous recommendations on creating an independent institution to investigate crimes committed by the police. The CERD again recommended that the government quickly create such an institution. In the period under review, this did not happen nor were any major anti-discrimination measures introduced.

Citations:
United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2018): Concluding observations on the combined eleventh and twelfth periodic reports of Slovakia. CERD/C/SVK/CO/11-12, Geneva (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/SKIndex.aspx).

Rule of Law

#31

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
6
Government and administration in Slovakia largely act on the basis of the law. However, legal certainty has suffered from frequent legal amendments and opaque laws. The increasing level of political polarization has made many laws rather short lived. As a result of frequent amendments, many laws have become inconsistent, even contradictory. Legal certainty has suffered also from the fact that the Constitutional Court has lacked a unifying normative background. While many court decisions have been inspired by the case law set by the European Court of Human Rights and the rulings of other EU member state constitutional courts, particularly the German one, others have been based on specific and not always transparent views of individual justices.

In the period under review, the debate on the low quality of laws in Slovakia again intensified. While in the past, this concern was primarily raised by lawyers and political scientists, this time the warning has come from the business sector and from the European Commission. Contradictory laws, with different ministries adopting different interpretations, and the resulting lack of predictability are increasingly seen as a problem for the business environment.

Citations:
Minarechová, R.(2019): Quality instead of quantity. members of parliament should think about the laws they submit, businesses say, in: Slovak Spectator, August 30 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22199157/businesses-call-for-more-predictable-legislation.html).

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
6
The Slovakian court system has for long suffered from low-quality decisions, a high backlog of cases, rampant corruption and repeated government intervention. Positive changes were brought about from within the judiciary after the disempowerment of Stefan Harabín, a controversial figure who occupied senior judicial positions between 1998 and 2014. Lucia Žitňanská, the minister of justice from March 2016 to March 2018, sought to foster transparency and fight corruption in the judicial system. Among other things, the ministry launched a new database to be used for improving the training of justices and their allocation to the courts. While the length of court proceedings has been shortened, concerns over the independence of the judiciary have persisted. They have been more than confirmed by the revelations about the entanglement of many justices in the corruption network of Marian Kocner, the man behind the murder of Kuciak and Kušnírová. In 2019, the Judicial Council twice failed to select the president of the Supreme Court. The next election round is scheduled for January 2020.

The Constitutional Court has generally operated independently of the executive branch of government. However, its performance has suffered from a high backlog of cases, aggravated by a long-standing stalemate between the former president, Kiska, and parliament over the appointment of new justices, and the politicization of appointments. Moreover, a controversial decision in January 2019 – in which the Constitutional Court, for the first time in Slovak history, declared a constitutional law unconstitutional – has raised concerns about the role of the court.

According to the 2019 EU Justice Scoreboard, 64% of Slovaks do not trust the courts. Public confidence in the independence of courts and judges is – tied with Hungary – the worst in Europe. Over 50% of respondents stated that interference from government and politicians was the main reason for the lack of judicial independence (only Hungary polled higher).

Citations:
Domin, M. (2019): A Part of the Constitution Is Unconstitutional, the Slovak Constitutional Court has Ruled, in: Verfassungsblog, February 8 (https://verfassungsblog.de/a-part-of-the-constitution-is-unconstitutional-the-slovak-constitutional-court-has-ruled/).

European Commission (2019): EU justice scoreboard 2019. Luxembourg (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/justice_scoreboard_2019_en.pdf).

Ľalík, T. (2017): Tracing constitutional changes in Slovakia between 2008-2016, in: Hungarian Journal of Legal Studies 58(2): 117-138.

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
6
The justices of the Constitutional Court (CC) are selected for 12 years by the president on the basis of proposals made by the parliament (National Council of the Slovak Republic), without any special majority requirement. From 2014 to the end of 2017, the selection of justices was paralyzed by a struggle between President Kiska, who had made judicial reform a priority in his successful presidential campaign in 2014, and the Smer-SD-dominated parliament. Ignoring a decision by the CC, Kiska blocked the appointment of new justices, arguing that the candidates greenlighted by the National Council lack the proper qualifications for Constitutional Court justices. As a result, three out of 19 seats in the CC remained vacant until Kiska eventually gave in in early December 2017. Kiska’s retreat was favored by recommendations by the so-called Venice Commission (Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy Through Law) in March 2017. While the latter criticized Kiska for blocking the appointments, it sided with him in calling for stricter criteria for nominated judges. Despite a broad consensus on the need for changes, an amendment proposed by Justice Minister Gál failed to muster sufficient support in parliament in October 2018.

In February 2019, the tenure of nine out of the court’s 13 justices expired. The process of replacing the justices was highly polarized, especially after former prime minister Robert Fico was nominated as a candidate. The recently introduced public hearings for candidates attracted a lot of media and public attention, but probably discouraged several qualified candidates from standing. In April 2019, the first three justices were appointed, but it took another nine months and five votes in parliament to finalize the other six appointments.

Citations:
Ovádek, M. (2019): Drama or Serenity? Upcoming Judicial Appointments at the Slovak Constitutional Court, in: Verfasssungsblog, January 29 (https://verfassungsblog.de/drama-or-serenity-upcoming-judicial-Appointments-at-the-slovak-constitutional-court/).

VIA IURIS (2019): Non-election of the sufficient number of 18 nominees for constitutional judges mean that Constitutional Court will function with difficulties, March 4, Banská Bystrica (https://viaiuris.sk/en/news/via-iuris-non-election-of-the-sufficient-number-of-18-nominees-for-constitutional-judges-mean-that-constitutional-court-will-function-with-difficulties/).

VIA IURIS (2019): The election of constitutional judges – incomprehensible hazard with the protection of citizens’ rights, May 22, Banská Bystrica (https://viaiuris.sk/en/news/via-iuris-the-election-of-constitutional-judges-incomprehensible-hazard-with-the-protection-of-citizens-rights/).

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
4
Corruption has been the most sensitive political problem undermining political stability and quality of democracy in Slovakia for some time. The revelations that have followed the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová have confirmed the prevalence of corruption in the country. Despite widespread public dissatisfaction with corruption, as evidenced by the mass demonstrations in 2018 and the election of Zuzana Čaputová as president in March 2019, the Pellegrini government has been slow to improve integrity mechanisms. The government has not embraced the comprehensive recommendations proposed early on by the new initiative Chceme Veriť (We Want to Believe), which was launched by several leading NGOs (Fair-Play Alliance, VIA IURIS, Slovak Governance Institute, Human Rights League, Open Society Foundation, Pontis Foundation and Stop Corruption foundation). Instead, the government has largely confined itself to updating its anti-corruption strategy in a routine manner. Its anti-corruption strategy for 2019 – 2023, as approved in December 2018, has remained rather vague.

Citations:
Council of Europe, Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) (2019): Evaluation Report Slovak Republic. GrecoEval5Rep(2018)9. Strasbourg (https://rm.coe.int/grecoeval5rep-2018-9-final-eng-slovakrep-public/168096d061).

OECD (2019): Tackling Fraud and Corruption Risks in the Slovak Republic: A Strategy with Key Actions for the European Structural and Investment Funds. Paris.
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