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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The Slovak Constitution provides for a multiparty, multiethnic parliamentary democracy, including separation of powers. Slovakia's highest legislative body is the 150-seat unicameral National Council of the Slovak Republic. Delegates are elected for 4-year terms on the basis of proportional representation. The Slovak political scene supports a wide spectrum of political parties ranging from the successors to the Communist Party--the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL)--to the nationalistic Slovak National Party (SNS) on the right.

Under the original Slovak Constitution, the president was elected by Parliament to a 5-year term. Since the Parliament was unable to agree on a successor to President Michal Kovac when his term ended March 2, 1998, most presidential powers reverted to the prime minister. In January 1999, Parliament passed a constitutional amendment allowing for direct election of the president. Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster was elected president in a May 1999 run-off with former PM Meciar and took office on June 15, 1999. The president serves as commander in chief of the armed forces, appoints ministers, grants pardons, and has the right to dissolve Parliament under certain circumstances. The president also signs laws and has the right to return legislation to Parliament, but Parliament can override this veto with a simple majority vote.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Courts & Judgments

The Slovak court system consists of local and regional courts, with the Supreme Court as the highest court of appeal except for constitutional questions. There is a separate Constitutional Court--with no ties to the Ministry of Justice--that considers constitutional issues. In addition there is a separate military court system, the decisions of which may be appealed to the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Under the Constitution, the President appoints Constitutional Court judges to 7-year terms based upon parliamentary nominations. Parliament elects other judges, based on recommendations from the Ministry of Justice, and can remove them for misconduct.

The Ministry of Justice can demote presidents and vice presidents of the courts for any reason, although they remain judges, and it has done so; however, the President of the Supreme Court can only be removed from office through impeachment. Although not specified in legislation, in practice the Judicial Council, an independent organization of lawyers and judges, recommends nominations for presidents of courts, and the Minister of Justice then officially nominates the recommended judge.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Human Rights

The Slovak Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in 2001, and showed improvement in certain areas; however, problems remained in some areas. In at least one case, the police allegedly killed a Rom. Police on occasion allegedly beat and abused persons, particularly Roma. There have been allegations that surveillance continued on both opposition and government politicians. On at least one occasion the Government used libel laws to suppress criticism of political leaders. There were some limits on the rights of Roma to travel. Violence and discrimination against women remained a problem. Cases of abuse of children and discrimination against the disabled were reported. Some anti-Semitic incidents occurred. Ethnic minorities, in particular Roma, faced societal discrimination. Skinhead attacks on Roma and other minorities continued during the year. Police sometimes failed to provide adequate protection against these attacks or to investigate such cases vigorously. Trafficking in women and children was a problem, particularly among the Roma minority.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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