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Slovak president intent on blocking parliament’s plan to dismantle top prosecutor’s office

Slovakia's president said on Friday he would try to use a veto or a constitutional challenge to block the new government's plan to shift the prosecution of serious crimes from national to local institutions. However, the ruling coalition is likely to override the veto.

Populist Prime Minister Robert Fico's government has amended the penal code to abolish the Special Prosecution Service, which handles serious crimes such as corruption and organized crime, by mid-January, replacing it with regional offices that do not handle such crimes. They are planning to bring back prosecutors. 20 years.

President Zuzana Čaputova said in a televised address on Friday that she considers the planned changes to be contrary to the rule of law, and the European Commission has also expressed concern that the measures are being rushed forward. he pointed out.

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The bill approved by Fico's government on Wednesday requires parliamentary and presidential approval. The three-party coalition has a majority in parliament.

President Čaputova could veto the changes, but the coalition would be able to override her veto with a simple majority, which would likely only delay the bill at best. It is unclear how a constitutional challenge to the bill will play out.

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova speaks at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Fico returned to power for the fourth time after his scandal-plagued left-wing party won the Slovak parliamentary elections on September 30 on a pro-Russian, anti-American platform.

His critics fear that his return will force Slovakia to abandon its pro-Western policies and instead follow the lead of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's Hungary.

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Since Fico took office, some elite investigators and police officials working on major corruption cases have been fired or furloughed. Planned legal changes also include reducing penalties for certain types of corruption.

The previous government, which came to power in 2020 on an anti-corruption campaign, had dozens of senior officials, police officers, judges, prosecutors, politicians and businessmen linked to Fico's party accused of corruption and other crimes. He was indicted and convicted.

Several other cases have not yet been completed, and it remains unclear what will happen to them under the new law.

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The opposition plans to hold a protest rally in the capital on Tuesday.

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