One of Greece’s top constitutional law professors, who played a pivotal role in forging the coalition of centre-left and centre right parties that comprise the Movement for Change, has now undertaken to promote a series of long discussed constitutional amendments.
In an interview with this weekend’s edition of Ta Nea, Alivizatos explains how he helped hammer out the positions of the Movement for Change, one of which is to allow amendments to be passed swiftly with an enhanced majority, rather than having to wait for the dissolution of parliament so that a future parliament can vote on whether to approve the amendment of articles that had already been selected by the previous parliament.
Among the limited but crucial articles that Alivizatos and his party want to amend is the article that opened the way for a law – the notorious law on ministerial responsibility – that provides an extremely brief statute of limitations on crimes committed by a minister while in office, which are connected with his portfolio.
The law has been denounced by almost all parties but has never been changed, as it essentially lets off the hook ministers who have taken bribes or engaged in other breaches of trust.
One of the outrageous provisions in the law is that it forces the judiciary to send a case file to parliament when the name of a minister pops up, so that the minister’s colleagues will decide if he or she will be prosecuted, before sending the case back to the judiciary.
Other key articles that the law professor believes should be given priority in a constitutional revision are provisions regarding parliamentary immunity, the manner of appointment of high court judges and of presidents of independent authorities, and changing the manner of election of the president of the republic, so that parliament need not be dissolved if the requisite enhanced majorities are not secured.
On the matter of the prosecution of ministers, Alivizatos underlines that in other European countries this is the task of a judicial organ (prosecutors and regular judges in France).
But in Greece, he maintains, parties want to preserve parliamentary authority over the prosecution of ministers as a political “nuclear bomb”, which can annihilate their enemies, or at least ensure mutually assured destruction.
As for the selection of high court justices, Alivizatos says they should be chosen from a list. They are now appointed by the governmental cabinet, with no restrictions.
The “mini amendment” of the constitution that Alivizatos and his party are advocating must be proposed by at least 50 MPs. The Movement for Change combined with New Democracy would have the votes, but Alivizatos thinks it will also be difficult for SYRIZA to say no to some of the obvious amendments that citizens have supported for years.