Committee on the Constitution: Prerequisites not met to call referenda

Zagreb - The parliamentary Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System on Wednesday decided with 11 votes in favour and one against that the prerequisites were not met to call referendums as proposed by the "People Decide" and the "Truth about the Istanbul Convention" civil society initiatives.

The vote came after a two and a half hour debate about whether the decision to call the referenda should be left to the Constitutional Court or not.

Social Democrat MP Pedja Grbin underscored that despite the fact that they should only discuss whether signatures were collected in a proper manner, it was necessary to consider the substance of these initiatives "that are directed against vulnerable social groups, one against women and the other against ethnic minorities." He underscored that as a Social Democrat he could not support either initiative because they were directed against human rights.

Grbin added that the Constitutional Court had left it to the parliament to decide whether the prerequisites for a referendum had been met and that only if any doubt existed, the parliament should turn to the Constitutional Court.

Bridge MP Robert Podolnjak, who cast the one dissenting vote, said that the report by the government commission on the verification of the number and authenticity of the collected signatures and the legality of their collection had serious flaws and called for a review.

Considering that there was less than 1% of incorrect signatures Podolnjak called for a recount of the signatures by a special commission to be appointed by parliament that would also include NGOs and representatives of the two civil initiatives.

Referring to a 2014 Constitutional Court decision, Podolnjak said that parliament cannot decide on whether a referendum should be called or rejected and that that decision has to be made by the Constitutional Court.

HRAST MP Hrvoje Zekanović called the government out for obstructing the referendum and added that the Constitutional Court did not respond to any of the questions or requests submitted to it regarding the matter.

SDSS MP Milorad Pupovac said that it was clear that the signatures were collected in highly dubious circumstances.

Representatives of the two civil initiatives, who attended the committee's session without the right of participating in the debate, announced that they would not quit their referendum plans.

Kristina Pavlović of the "Truth about the Istanbul Convention" and Natalija Kanacki of the "People Decide" initiatives said that they would first turn to the Constitutional Court and then to the European Court of Human Rights.

Author: Hina