Czech parliament alters constitution to prompt early poll

The Czech Republic’s parliament Friday changed the country’s constitution with the aim of triggering a snap general election, possibly as soon as November. Both parliamentary houses amended the constitution a day after the nation’s Constitutional Court threw out an early poll that had been set for October 9-10.

The Brno-based court ruled that a one-off law, which enabled the canceled October vote by shortening the legislature’s four-year term, was unconstitutional.

In order to hold a snap poll as soon as possible amid the global economic crisis, the lower house cleared a fast track to early elections in a 149-8 vote, which required a majority of 120 lawmakers in the 200-seat house.

The 81-seat upper house approved the bill 63-3. The vote required 44 votes from the 72 present senators.

Under the amendment, the president would have to dissolve the lower house if 120 of its 200 lawmakers vote for it. The president, who does not have a right to veto such legislation, is expected to ink it without delay.

If the voting proceeds as political parties have agreed, the lower house could be dissolved next week and voters could cast ballots as soon as November 6-7.

The plan also required an amendment of the nation’s election law, which allows the president to call for a snap vote 50 days after dissolving the chamber. The parliament cleared the bill also on Friday.

The constitutional change however could be also attacked in the top court, critics said, citing the Thursday verdict.

Political leaders agreed to hold the cancelled October poll after former premier Mirek Topolanek’s centre-right government collapsed in March, midway through the country’s half-year term at the helm of the European Union. His cabinet should have been in power until June 2010.

Since May 8, the Czech Republic has been ruled by Prime Minister Jan Fischer’s technocrat caretaker cabinet.


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