The government-sponsored draft legislation to abolish the office of former President Stjepan Mesic did not receive the backing from the parliamentary committee on the Constitution on Tuesday given that four committee members voted for the proposal and four voted against it.
Those members who participated in today's discussion on the matter found it incorrect for the government to cite "current economic conditions" and a wish to cut state spending as the main reasons to abolish Stjepan Mesic's Office on 1 May.
Davorin Mlakar of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) recalled that his party had warned that the existing legislation was contrary to the Constitution. According to Mlakar, the HDZ has been warning about unfairness since the last amendment of the pertaining legislation in 2013 that provided for Mesic's lifelong entitlement to the office in his capacity as a former head of state, while other former presidents were given the right to use the office for five years upon the expiry of their presidential term.
Mlakar insists that all former heads of state should be given equal rights and that the legislation should be amended to that aim. The HDZ parliamentarian also fears that the latest proposed amendments cannot pass the test of constitutionality.
Croatian People's Party (HNS) MP Vesna Pusic is sure that Croatia should not have two categories of former presidents and she found the explanation of the government-sponsored changes insufficient.
Social Democrat (SDP) parliamentarian Josip Leko expressed doubts that austerity was the main reason for the proposal to strip Mesic of the lifelong entitlement to the use of the office.
Ethnic Serb deputy Milorad Pupovac said that Mesic had been a crucial stakeholder in the country's political life in the past 25 years and that therefore he deserved special status.
In mid-April the Croatian government forwarded to parliament amendments to the law governing the special rights of former presidents of the republic under which as of May 1 former president Mesic would no longer have a permanent right to his own office, personal driver and official car "due to the current economic situation", however, he would keep the right to physical protection, to be paid for from the state budget.
Under the current law, Mesic is entitled to permanently exercise these rights as a former president, while other presidents after him may enjoy these rights for a maximum five years.
Public Administration Minister Dubravka Jurlina Alibegovic said then that the proposed amendments were appropriate considering the current economic situation in the country, particularly taking into consideration the fact that Mesic's office had not published any report on its activities that would justify its financing.
The proposed measure is expected to save around HRK 600,000 annually (EUR 80,000).
Mesic was president for two terms, from 2000 to 2010.
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