MPs call for debate on amending election rules

15. October 2014.

Some of the party groups in the Croatian parliament on Wednesday urged opening a debate on changes to electoral rules, asking Speaker Josip Leko to send all MPs a copy of a letter on that topic he received from President Ivo Josipovic.

"I ask that you copy the letter and distribute it to the MPs because it's not a private but an official letter," said Dragutin Lesar of the Labour Party, expressing doubt that Josipovic's letter was only about preferential voting.

Lesar does not believe that the topic should be discussed by the parliamentary Presidency. "The Presidency is not supposed to reach any agreements at its sessions," he said.

He recalled that three bills on amending electoral legislation were low on the agenda of the parliamentary session, noting that all conditions had been created to open a discussion on the matter.

Josip Salapic of the HDSSB party recalled the referendum initiative for the introduction of preferential voting of the civil society group "In the name of the family", saying that it was clear that the rule on the number of signatures required for holding such a referendum referred to the electorate in Croatia.

He noted, however, that a final opinion on the matter should be given by the Constitutional Court.

Independent MP Jadranka Kosor said she believed that the civil society group had collected enough signatures because the Constitution made it clear that the requirement regarding the necessary number of signatures referred to signatures of voters residing in Croatia.

Kosor said that the President of the Republic did not need to write to the parliament to make it do its job, but that his letter should nonetheless be taken into account.

"We can take into account what Mr Josipovic is proposing, but we have before us proposals by MPs as well as signatures collected by the In the Name of the Family group," Kosor said, recalling that in elections for the European Parliament citizens had accepted preferential voting.

The main opposition party, the HDZ, was very critical of Josipovic's move.

"The President has not done anything but used current topics to shift public attention to himself and his campaign," said MP Davorin Mlakar, recalling that a previous government led by the HDZ had been the first to propose preferential voting in European elections.

Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) said he would understand had the President written to the parliament during riots in Vukovar or to comment on the country's difficult economic situation, but he could not understand why the topic of preferential voting was crucial for the stability of the political system.

Pupovac warned of the danger of the parliament being abused for electioneering purposes and called for preventing it.

Speaker Leko said that he would distribute Josipovic's letter to MPs, noting that an attempt by leaders of parliamentary parties to discuss which issues they could reach a consensus on would save time and possibly reduce tensions in society.

"The letter will be submitted to MPs after the Presidency at least tries to discuss the minimum number of items that could be put on the agenda regarding changes to the electoral legislation," Leko said in a comment on MPs' request to give them Josipovic's letter.

The letter is based on a survey which Leko said he hoped President Josipovic would make public.

The parliament speaker said it was possible Josipovic's letter would be made public already on Thursday.