The Constitutional Court on Wednesday abolished the "epidemiological" amendments to parliament's rules of procedure, concluding that there were technical solutions to protect health while at the same time not restricting the rights and obligations of lawmakers to participate in debates.
The decision comes after 35 opposition MPs in September called for parliament’s rules of procedure to be tested for constitutionality, claiming that the epidemiological measures limit the right to debate.
In their application opposition MPs underlined that shortening the time for debates and times for pauses, restricting the number of MPs at sittings and abolishing the right to objections, violates their constitutional rights.
The parliamentary Committee on the Constitution, Rules of Procedure and Political System had previously objected to the opposition’s application underscoring that limiting the number of lawmakers in the chamber and shortening the time of debates did not limit MPs’ right to debate, and that the measures were introduced due to the special conditions caused by the coronavirus epidemic and for the sake of health safety.
Even though the Court believes that the amendments to the rules of procedure had a legitimate aim, it nevertheless concluded that parliament’s legitimacy is based on the trust vested in it by the people and that its function is primarily achieved through participation in sittings and by debating and voting on issues on the agenda.
The Constitutional Court notes that in addition to limiting the number of MPs who can participate in debates at the same time they were allowed to vote on concluded items on the agenda, regardless of whether they were in the chamber, electronically and/or by raising their hand in one of the other meeting rooms in the Parliament building.
“In other words, technical possibilities obviously exist to organise parliament’s activities during the present circumstances that would not limit the rights and obligations of MPs that belong to them under the Constitution,” the court said.