On the eve of the second round of the recent presidential elections in Ukraine, both presidential candidates Petro Poroshensko and Volodymyr Zelensky accepted the public challenge and were tested for alcohol and drug abuse. Poroshenko, who took the position of head of state, was tested in the laboratory of the Olympic stadium in Kiev. Zelensky, meanwhile, who won the elections, decided to test in a private medical facility due to suspicion that Poroshenko would frame fake results through his people in public healthcare. In the end it turned out that the two were clean.
Initiatives to check the politicians’s health are nothing new in Europe and the world, nor are in the Balkan region. Some years ago, the young members of the Democratic Party of Serbia wrote to Serbia’s Parliament Speaker to make lawmakers undergo a drug test. Although they received largely positive comments from political parties, the idea was never realized.
“It is embarrassing that they have proposed such a thing. As well as insulting, because the MPs have already earned the confidence of the citizens. However, outside the Parliament, we are ready to undergo tests any time,” was one of the impressive party reactions that emerged from the Liberal Democratic Party.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in 2014 pledged for compulsory tests for politicians, but for journalists, as well.
“Politicians, journalists and those filling positions of public trust have to be included in the drug tests because it is clear that those who consume drugs cannot be relied on in the fight against drugs,” president Orban said, but these arguments were not accepted by the public, despite his famous autocratic rule.
The proposal suggests that “media workers are some sort of depraved people”, said Zsuzsanna Gyongyosi, president of the Association of Independent Journalists.
The case with MP Pavle Bogoevski has opened a debate whether drug tests should be introduced into the Macedonian Parliament. Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi replied that there was no legal basis under which the initiative of independent MPs would be implemented. Speaker Xhaferi notes that he cannot, and must not, act outside his legal authorities.
Tito Petkovski, who headed the Parliament as Speaker during the period between 1996 and 1998, recalls that he also received initiatives for mandatory health tests for the MPs.
“They were mainly from the opposition. For instance, there would be a loud discussion, in which there were many insults, so they would demand a certificate from a health institution. Even for the MP’s mental state. There may be one inconsistency here, for instance, when hired in any other place, such or similar certificate is required, while no such thing is required in politics. But since there is no such legal possibility, Speaker Xhaferi is absolutely right not to act on the initiative. He must not act outside the rules of procedure and his competencies. Personal health state is the right of the MPs, to take care of themselves and and maintain a healthy life, but this is a case of their moral responsibility,” Petkovski told Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent daily newspaper.
His predecessor, former Parliament Speaker Stojan Andov also agrees that at the moment there is no legal regulation under which Xhaferi could allow drug testing.
“But they should adopt such a regulation. It cannot be considered good, nor a normal thing if there is drug abuse among MPs,” Andov said and commented that at the time when he was the Parliament Speaker, there were no such initiatives because, as he claimed, “there was no need for it, the last thing on our minds was taking drugs”.
Yesterday, VMRO-DPMNE demanded Bogoevski to step down as MP due to moral and health reasons.
“We don’t wand an MP elected by the citizens making decisions without a clear mind,” the main opposition party reiterated.
Testing in MANU – MKD 60,000
There are different types of drug tests, and their price ranges from a few euros, up to 60,000 denars. The cheapest test can be bought in pharmacies, these are urine tests, and the results are available within minutes, just like pregnancy tests. The more complicated tests check the presence of drugs through a hair sample that needs to have its root. These controls are carried out in highly equipped clinics, with employees taking the sample on the spot.
“Pavle claims he is ready to undergo a drug test. Let me offer you a free legal advice: Don’t do it! Or if you already decided to get tested, I offer my help so that you prove your theory. Not with MKD 200 tests, or blood or urine tests. I suggest you go to the MANU laboratory, they do hair sample tests and this laboratory can provide you with history of what kind of milk you’ve been drinking, what kind of drugs you used or didn’t use. This test costs MKD 60,000 and I’m willing to for pay it,” said attorney Janaki Mitrovski.
Marijuana and cocaine in the Italian parliament
One of the most remarkable cases of checking drug addiction among politicians was recorded a decade ago in Italy. Journalists of the controversial The Hyenas (Le Iene) TV show, who managed to uncover a large number of criminal affairs of politicians, subjected lawmakers in the Italian parliament to drug tests without their knowledge and consent. Namely, turning to journalists on “one satellite television”, they asked “the MPs to give them a statement on the financial reforms that were current during that period. In doing so, they have assured them that they will have to apply some makeup on them, because they were sweaty. “The make-up artist” applied special powder on the politicians’ foreheads, which in fact was a drug tester showing whether they used marijuana or cocaine in the last 24 hours. The results were shocking: of the 50 Members of Parliament, 12 were positive for marijuana, and four for cocaine. This cause a storm in Italian politics.
“The Hyenas’ journalists are nice, but this is a poor marketing move. These results can not be taken with certainty,” said Pier Ferdinando Casini, president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The names of lawmakers were never revealed to the public, as the competent state body concluded that they were jeopardizing their right to privacy.