The civil initiative, The People Decide (Narod odlučuje), claimed on Wednesday that some cities were purposefully dragging their feet in issuing location permits for pettition stands for a referendum to change the Croatian election law.
In spite of the problems with obtaining location permits, some 78,000 people have already signed for the referendum in the three days since the initiative started collecting signatures, said Zvonimir Troskot, a member of the initiative, at a news conference.
“The City of Rijeka still has not issued permits for the requested locations, they only sent us the contract yesterday, so the people of Rijeka, one of the largest cities in Croatia, can not expect to sign for the referendum until the end of this week,” said Luka Mlinaric, another member of the initiative.
The initiative is asking for a reduction in the number of MPs from the existing 150 to a maximum of 120, a 4 percent election threshold compared to the current 5 percent, a restriction in minority MPs voting rights, and an increase in preferential voting on party slates from one to three votes.
Their goal, they say, is to ensure greater voter decision making in the election if their MPs, greater voter participation in elections, and reduce political bargaining and corruption.
The Speaker of the Parliament, Gordan Jandrokovic, said last week that passing the referendum would only weaken the political and party system, and allow individuals without any political knowledge or skill to draw attention to themselves.
The election monitoring NGO Gong also criticised the changes proposed by the initiative, saying that the proposed referendum question aimed at restricting the minority MPs' voting rights is contrary to the principle of parliamentarism.
Mlinaric said that cities and municipalities used the location permit requests to obstruct the process of collecting signatures and, with that, the referendum initiative itself.
“All this is preventing the people from exercising their Constitutional right to demand a referendum. Approvals for the locations we had requested three weeks ago are only coming in now, and the deadline to collect over 370,000 signatures is only 15 days,” Mlinaric said.
In order for the referendum to take place, the initiative need to collect signatures from more than 370,000 people, or a 10 percent of the electorate in Croatia. If they are successful, the Constitutional Court will decide whether the questions in the proposed referendum are in line with the Croatian Constitution, and allow, or veto, the referendum.
All the necessary fees for the location permits were paid for by small donations from the initiative’s supporters, said Troskot.