Bratislava, Slovakia – Slovak President Zuzana Caputova last week announced that she would veto a controversial bill imposing a ban on opinion polls 50 days before elections.
“I’m convinced, and this was also the reason guiding my veto, that the bill flies in the face of several constitutional guaranteed rights”, the head of state said.
The bill, which extends the current 14-day moratorium to a nearly 2-month blackout, was presented by the ruling Smer party and coalition partner SNS, and was also supported by MP’s from Marian Kotleba’s far-right LSNS.
According to its authors, the new law is meant to “protect voters from disinformation and purpose-built information” by banning respective political parties from publishing the results of opinion polls, which they often commissioned themselves and which only, according to its proponents, added to the confusion of indecisive voters vulnerable to fake or contradictory news.
But critics have argued that the 50-day moratorium, one of the longest survey blackouts in the world, would considerably restrict citizens and voters’ right to information. The timing of the new bill, approved by lawmakers a few months before key parliamentary elections in February, has also sparked concerns.
Regardless of its underlying philosophy, analysts have also highlighted a number of loopholes that could render this survey blackout completely inefficient – including the fact that these polls could be leaked or published for instance in Czech media, which Slovak voters would easily have access to.
A number of opposition lawmakers had called on Zuzana Caputova to veto the bill as soon as Parliament approved it. A Focus poll carried out last month found that a majority of voters opposed the amendment.
The President also announced that, if Slovak lawmakers override her veto, she will take the case to the Constitutional Court, a move that could possibly suspend its effect at least until the next election.