The “absolute veto” of the law on ratifying the Prespa agreement is probably the last “ammunition” that President Gjorge Ivanov used to obstruct the agreement between the governments of Macedonia and Greece, creating the ground for his political-legal “sendoff” for disrespecting The Constitution.
After activating the process on constitutional changes, as the second stage after the referendum, Ivanov’s hands are basically tied for further interventions over the Prespa agreement. Unless he intends to continue to violate the Constitution and to risk the impeachment of the new constellation of relations in the legislature for the second time, when VMRO-DPMNE is no longer a decisive factor in securing a two-thirds majority.
After the decision for accession to constitutional revision, Ivanov announced to the public that the majority of the people’s representatives acted contrary to the will of the people in the referendum. On the other hand, the head of state has no opportunity to influence the process of changing the Constitution. His sole competence in that part is to appear as an eventual submitter of a proposal for accession to constitutional amendments, while in the final phase of the procedure there is no need for his signature for the amendments to be adopted. Ivanov should only sign the constitutional law on the implementation of the amendments that will be adopted, but in this case he has no veto power, since this regulation is adopted by a two-thirds majority.
Under Article 75 of the Constitution, the president is obliged to sign the decree if the law is adopted by a two-thirds majority vote of the total number of Members of Parliament.
But Ivanov has already violated the Constitution once by not signing the law on ratification of the Prespa agreement after the second vote, as he did before with the Law on Languages. Therefore, the process of implementing the agreement runs without it being published in the “Official Gazette” which, in turn, would mean its entry into force. For now, there is no specific answer whether the fact that the agreement was not published in the “Official Gazette” could be a problem in its ratification in the Greek parliament – a step that would follow after the constitutional changes in the country, that is, in the first months of the next year, before political entities in Athens enter an election campaign.
Given the deadlines for implementing the agreement, it is impossible to wait for a shift to the top of the country because Ivanov’s term expires in mid-May next year. From that aspect, one of the variants is the agreement to be published without Ivanov’s signature. Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi has announced such a possibility on several occasions, but this has not happened so far.
Xhaferi stated for Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent newspaper yesterday that in terms of an agreement with Greece, everything that would have to be done will be done when the time comes. Xhaferi confirmed that constitutional amendments, as he said, were not subject to verification by the president of the state.
– Only the law for the implementation of the constitutional changes needs to be delivered to Ivanov. But since this law is adopted by a two-thirds majority, he is obliged to sign it, so he does not have the possibility to suspend it. I do not want to prejudge what would happen if Ivanov decides to go against the Constitution in this case as well,” Xhaferi told Nezavisen Vesnik.
In a statement some time ago, after the required two-thirds majority to start constitutional changes had been reached, Xhaferi suggested that the parliamentary majority could initiate a procedure to determine Ivanov’s responsibility for disrespecting the Constitution. However, he pointed out that one should first see the mood of eight opposition MPs who voted in favor of constitutional changes on October 19.
– Two thirds of the votes, which we do not currently have, are needed in order to adopt an impeachment motion for the president. It would be unnecessary to enter into a process that we know would end up negatively. These topics need to be discussed with those MPs and if they give support, of course it will be initiated – said Xhaferi.
In the new parliamentary caucus formed by MPs that were excluded from VMRO-DPMNE, according to the information, they see the possibility of Ivanov’s impeachment as uncertain. This parliamentary group remains in opposition and will not be part of the parliamentary majority. They say they do not plan to provide support for other government proposals for the adoption of which a two-thirds majority is required without consultations and alignment with the majority.
A meeting of the new independent parliamentary group with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Foreign and Justice Ministers Nikola Dimitrov and Renata Treneska-Desoska was announced yesterday to discuss the draft amendments to the Constitution that the Government should submit to the Parliament.
The MPs said that they would discuss the constitutional amendments in accordance with their requirements for strengthening the identity, delayed application of the name Republic of North Macedonia after the EU accession and the nullity of constitutional changes if Greece does not ratify the agreement.
The ruling parties planned discussions with the opposition VMRO-DPMNE about the constitutional amendments, but for now there is no announcement for consultations at that level. The fifteen-day deadline for submitting draft amendments expires on Friday.
A new schedule of forces in the Constitutional Court
Ivanov is not only the first Macedonian president who has been elected in two subsequent elections, but is the first ever to face an impeachment procedure. The process against him, however, ended in parliament, without the possibility for the Constitutional Court to rule whether the head of state violated the Constitution and laws with collective abolition in the cases of the SPO.
This time the difference is that SDSM, as the then opposition party that initiated the impeachment procedure, now has the largest number of parliamentary groups in the parliamentary majority, compared to VMRO-DPMNE, whose parliamentary group excluded eight MPs who supported the government proposal for accession to constitutional amendments, providing a two-thirds majority.
Under Article 87 of the Constitution, the President is responsible for violating the Constitution and laws in the exercise of his rights and duties. The procedure for establishing the accountability of the President should be initiated by the Assembly by a two-thirds majority of the total number of Representatives. The Constitutional Court decides on the responsibility of the president by a two-thirds majority of the total number of judges. If the Constitutional Court determines the President’s accountability, the presidential post shall be terminated as the Constitution dictates.
When initiating the first impeachment for Ivanov, the assumptions were that in the then constitution of the Constitutional Court, two-thirds majority could not be secured for the eventual “dismissal” of the president, in case the procedure was moved from parliament to the court. Now, even in the Constitutional Court, there is a different schedule of forces, as was seen during the debate on the initiative to “freeze” the referendum on the name. The petition for assessing the constitutionality of the decision to announce the referendum was rejected by the Constitutional Court with seven votes “against”, and only two votes “in favor”.
Aleksandra M. Mitevska