Constitutional referendum - 3 main changes

Referendum o izmeni Ustava - 3 najvažnije promene

In recent weeks, the citizens of Serbia have been receiving a notification from the Republic Election Commission (RIK) which indicates to the citizens of the Republic of Serbia that there is a referendum scheduled for January 16, 2021. years. The referendum was called in order to confirm the decision to change the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia. In the referendum, citizens will vote by circling the words YES or NO, thus indicating whether they support the change of the Constitution. The Constitution is the most important legal act of Serbia, and the attention devoted to this topic is not even close to the significance of the upcoming vote on Sunday. The proposed changes are important for the legal system, an impartial court and a public prosecutor's office. As such, they may not be attractive to non-lawyers, and therefore they do not occupy the front pages of newspapers and prime time broadcasts of television shows. Pekić Law Office summarizes the 3 most important proposed changes to the Constitution in a layman's way:

  1. The national assembly does not elect judges anymore.

In the current Constitution, judges, who are elected to this position for the first time, are elected by the National Аssembly for a period of 3 years. After that, the High Judicial Council elects judges to a permanent position. According to the new Constitution, there would be no election of judges for 3 years and judges would not be elected by the National Assembly. Judges would be elected by the High Judicial Council (whose members are mostly judges) for an indefinite period. After the election, a judge could only be dismissed by the High Judicial Council in rare cases. The Government of the Republic of Serbia, as the proposer, points out that this change would reduce the influence of politics on the judiciary because judges would be elected by the organization of judges (High Judicial Council) and not the National Assembly.

2. The judicial appointment lasts until the end of the career.

Under the new proposal, a judge would be immediately elected to a permanent position and could only be exceptionally removed. Once elected, a judge would perform such duty until the end of his working life and retirement. A judge could be removed from office under exceptional circumstances by a decision of the High Judicial Council, as an organization of judges, and not by the National Assembly, which includes representatives of political parties. The government, in this case as well, states that such a change would reduce the influence of politics on judges, because a judge would not have to worry about losing his job due to nature of some of his decisions.

3. Chief public prosecutors and public prosecutors shall not be elected by the National Assembly.

The Public Prosecutor's Office is a state body whose main function is to prosecute perpetrators of criminal acts. As such, the public prosecutor's office also prosecutes perpetrators of crimes that could potentially be linked to political parties. Currently, public prosecutors and deputy public prosecutors have been elected by the National Assembly. Under the new proposal, chief public prosecutors and public prosecutors will be elected by the High Prosecutorial Council (a body equivalent to the High Judicial Council). The RS government points out that in this way the influence of politics on the work of the public prosecutor's office will be reduced, and that it will be able to freely prosecute students of criminal acts, without the involvement of other bodies.

NOTE: This text does not constitute a suggestion to vote in any way. The text is a personal summary of the most important points and its nature is informative. It is up to you to decide whether you will on January 16, 2022. vote for an amendment to the Constitution or against. You can find arguments for and against the amendment of the Constitution on the Internet and in public television shows. 

Author: attorney at law Stefan Pekić / pekic@attorney.rs