željko reiner.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR /ds

Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner on Monday refuted claims that voting on a bill to abolish the office of former president Stjepan Mesic had been postponed twice because the ruling coalition doesn't have a majority support for that bill and stressed that the coalition had a stable majority in parliament.

"Contrary to those who are in a chaos, that is, our political rivals, who even after the election cannot get their act together, Baldasar's replacement and so on, are constantly wishing for bickering to occur in the majority, but that isn't so. The Patriotic Coalition, Bridge and other parties have a stable majority even though we do not always see eye to eye about everything. That is why different parties exist. In the end we manage to come to an agreement over everything and the majority, I assure you and all those who would like it to be otherwise, is stable and firm and will remain that way," Reiner said in an interview with the national broadcaster, Croatian Radio.

Reiner commented on statements by junior coalition partner, Milan Bandic who announced a re-shuffle of the parliamentary majority as well as statements made by the recently elected leader of the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) Kresimir Beljak who sent a message to Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic to go back to Canada. Reiner said that this was a "colourful way of expressing themselves." "Naturally, everyone can express their opinion how they want but what is most important is that in the end we manage to agree," he said.

He explained that last Friday, parliament didn't vote on the bill because the two ministers who were required to participate in the debate over the amendments were away and their deputies have not been appointed yet. He added that he hoped, deputies would be appointed soon. "It's not easy to find qualified people for such responsible positions and who aren't particularly paid that well," Reiner said. He expects that parliament will vote on Friday on the bill to abolish Mesic's office.

Asked about the establishment of an inquiry commission to investigate President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic's claims that recently replaced head of the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) Dragan Lozancic was former prime minister "Zoran Milanovic's private intelligence officer," Reiner said that inquiry commissions were a normal form of parliament's functioning.

He is confident that the appointment of a new SOA chief should have been resolved by agreement. "You know very well that we have a First Deputy Prime Minister who is in expert in that field. The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and its leader made several proposals and as far as I know, they weren't even considered, instead Daniel Markic was appointed. That was obviously the motive for some people in the national security commission to vote against," Reiner said.

Asked whether that meant that the relationship between the HDZ and prime minister and president were not ideal, Reiner said that relationships have to be constructive and don't have to be ideal. "They are mostly constructive. Had they not been we wouldn't have a budget and 60 very concrete measures for structural reforms," he said.

Reiner cannot see that there is anything contentious in the fact that constitutional court judges are being elected with a show of hands for the first time in 15 years. "Secret and open ballots are both forms of democracy. If the committee for the constitution estimates that it is better that they as competent members of the committee agree to 10 people whom they consider to be the most competent, that does not in any way mean that parties don't trust each other but that they have agreed to not allow votes to be dispersed but to produce concrete recommendations," said Reiner.

He recalled that the last parliamentary majority last year attempted to elect two constitutional court judges without discussing or obtaining agreement from the Opposition. "They tried without any agreement 'with muscle power' to push through two candidates. It didn't work and that is not the sort of approach that should be taken in parliament. That is probably why the committee has decided for this selection process and for voting to be with a show of hands," he assessed.

He underscored that there was no doubt that the selection would succeed this time adding though that he could not guarantee that all 10 constitutional court judges would be appointed.

Reiner once again spoke about a bill that would penalise parliamentarians who do not come to work regularly. "Someone who doesn't turn up to plenary sessions. Someone who never says anything, doesn't come to committee meetings and there isn't a quorum, and particularly they who do not come to voting, have to suffer the consequences. The people will not tolerate that someone is paid but isn't doing their job," he added.

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