Gong warned the Venice Commission about the non-transparent and unprofessional new Constituencies Act

06. June 2023.
Gong warned the Venice Commission about the non-transparent and unprofessional new Constituencies Act 1

Gong sent a letter to the Venice Commission regarding the new Constituencies Act, which was drafted in a non-transparent and exclusive manner and sent to public consultation as such. The role of the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, is to provide legal advice to member states and help states wishing to bring their legal and institutional structures into line with European standards and international experience in the fields of democracy, human rights and the rule of law

The Government of the Republic of Croatia, led by President Andrej Plenković, adopted and submitted for public consultation a proposal for a new Constituencies Act on May 25, 2023. This proposal contradicts good practice and recommendations of the Venice Commission in several aspects.

Firstly, the process of developing this important law was non-transparent, non-inclusive, and conducted without any consultations with experts. According to media reports, it was drafted by a group of politicians from the ruling party, the Croatian Democratic Union, while law and political science experts, as well as opposition parties, were not consulted at all. At the same time, Prime Minister Plenković tried to justify the exclusion of experts by labeling them as members of opposing political options. Gong publicly reacted to all this at a press conference.

Secondly, we believe that the Government's proposal for new constituencies is unconstitutional because it is based on an unreliable voter registry. When compared to the results of the census conducted in 2021, there is a surplus of approximately 500,000 voters. The Constitutional Court warned the Croatian Parliament in its decision on February 7, 2023, that the Voter Registry must provide reliable data, but the ruling party ignored this warning. Consequently, the proposed law and the allocation of mandates across the constituencies were based on such an unreliable registry.

Thirdly, the proposed constituencies are further fragmented and connect geographical and territorial entities without any logic, with some constituencies even having unacceptable territorial discontinuity.

Moreover, in its opinion from 2007, the Venice Commission also highlighted deficiencies in Croatia's
voter registration system and problems with fictitious residences.

The Government of the Republic of Croatia missed an opportunity to initiate a discussion on a serious
and sustainable electoral reform that could permanently and effectively regulate constituencies.

Furthermore, through the proposed model, it has opened the doors to constant political
gerrymandering before each election due to demographic changes, since there are significant
migration trends present in certain parts of the country. Namely, in the proposed Constituencies Act,
the delimitation process is entrusted to a political body, the Ministry of Justice and Public
Administration, instead of an independent body.

Gong warned the Venice Commission about the non-transparent and unprofessional new Constituencies Act 2