Sunday, October 18, 2009
The Czech Republic hashes out exactly what the judiciary can and can't do in its still fledgling democracy.
By Bruce I. Konviser
PRAGUE, Czech Republic — When the Constitutional Court struck down a constitutional amendment last month, which was to pave the way for early elections, the political establishment was shocked that the court had asserted itself in such a manner.
Others supported the decision, saying the ruling was not only a breakthrough for the court but was also a watershed event for the country's still fledgling democracy.
Early elections seemed inevitable after the government collapsed in the spring following a vote of-no-confidence in parliament. In an effort to hasten the cumbersome process toward early elections, parliament passed a new amendment that the Constitutional Court subsequently nixed, ruling against what it called a retroactive and stop-gap measure.
The ruling has unleashed a constitutional debate about the fundamental duties and authority of the judiciary. As the Czech Republic’s democracy continues to develop, such a debate is both reflective of the country’s journey toward a strong democracy and integral to it.
Many political leaders could barely contain their rage at the ruling. President Vaclav Klaus went so far as to call the court's decision “wrong.” (By definition, of course, the Constitutional Court cannot be wrong. Regardless of what anyone thinks of a particular ruling the constitution means what the court says it means.)...(Remainder.)