Earlier today the Constitutional Court nixed referendums on laws on state holding company and bad bank. Brainchildren of finance minister Janez Šušteršič, these are perhaps the most crucial pieces of legislation the government of Janez Janša pushed through the legislative procedure so far. Or will have pushed at all. However, regardless of one’s take on this particular set of laws, it is the ruling of the constitutional court that will go down in history. Namely, in its drive to prevent referendums on these to laws, the court – willingly or by chance – gave this (and every other) government a carte blanche. Allow me to elucidate with references to specifics…
The sa(i)d ruling. Full text here
Normally, pengovsky would go apeshit over denied referendums. After all, that same court in that same composition allowed a referendums on pension reform and the family code. In the latter cases judges defended the right to vote at all costs, while this time around they liberally applied “values before rights” approach. Specifically, they said that the right to a referendum must give way to values of a functional state including creating conditions for economic growth, human rights, including social and labour security and freedom of enterprise, fulfilling international obligations and effectively enforce EU legislation in Slovenia.
The last item was the usual mantra of every government in the history of this country. “It’s the EU” was the trump card which effectively ended every debate. The fact that the Constitutional Court succumbed to it leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth. Ditto for “fulfilling international obligations”. Both items mean that any government can make whatever deal anywhere in the world, be it Berlin, Brussels or Washington, ratify a treaty and have a referendum bid killed almost instantly.
The second item, about human rights and social security is pure cynicism, the likes of which we’ve come to expect from Janša’s government but not from the supreme defender of the constitution. Allowing referenda on pension reform and family code a year ago, knowing full well both laws will be rejected and thus making sure life got no better for a lot of people, the very same constitutional court denies the right to a referendum on how to manage state (that is taxpayers’) property.
However, all of the above pales in comparison with the first item. Functional state including creating conditions for economic growth is nothing short of a “State Protection Act” or, to use its international moniker, The Patriot Act. As of today, the government can do whatever the fuck it pleases. Traffic fines. Education. The budget. Bad bank. Voting system. You name it. Anything can fall in the “functional state” category. With this, democracy is no longer a system but a random act of benevolence of the powers that be.
In the final analysis, the people of Slovenia are no longer the sovereign of this country. Instead, they’ve been relegated to status of “consultation body” which the government may ask a thing or two from time to time, but whenever the people would want to question decisions of their elected representatives, the need for a functional state” card can (and will) be played.
Not buying it? Try this on for size. When this same constitutional court nixed Tito Street in Ljubljana, again citing various values, it made it clear that was a one-off decision, although the court’s rulings are usually taken as precedents. This time, however, there is no such clause. This is it. Functionality of the country comes first, our rights as citizens be damned.
If you don’t agree with it, you can take it up with the Constitutional Court. Oh, wait..