Law on People’s Initiative – public discussion (with an on-going study supported by the Visegrad fund)

A round table about people’s initiative was organized on 9 June 2010 in Novi Sad in the Assembly of AP Vojvodina. This round table is a part of a wider public discussion initiated regarding the Model of the law on people’s initiative by the following organizations: People’s Parliament from Leskovac, Center for Advancement of Legal Studies (CUPS), Sretenje and Resource Center Negotin. Assistant to the project Political parties and engaged public Snežana Ilić joined the work of the round table.

The introductory part was given by legal experts, authors of the Model of the law on people’s initiative, Professors Dr Vladimir Vodinelić and Dr Saša Gajin as well as the vice-president of the Assembly of AP Vojvodina Branimir Mitrović and Ivan Grujić from People’s Parliament. In the introductory part it was said that in the past ten years (2000 – 2010) there were nine draft laws in the National Assembly of Serbia whose proposers were citizens in a form of a people’s (civil) initiative. The National Assembly discussed only one draft law although there is a legal and constitutional obligation to discuss all draft law proposed in a form of people’s initiative.

The current Law on referendum and people’s initiative (1994) defines a deadline of only seven days to collect the necessary 30 thousand signatures for people’s initiative which is to be handed in the Assembly and does not give any firm guarantees for the initiative to be discussed in the Parliament.

The proposed Model of the law on people’s initiative defines the right of the citizens of the Republic of Serbia registered in the voters list to propose adoption, change or amendments to the laws and other general acts which are in the jurisdiction of the National Assembly or the Assembly of the Autonomous Province or the Assembly of a city or municipality. This model defines the following number of citizens needed to start initiative: at least 30.000 citizens submit a proposal of a general act which is to be adopted in the National Assembly; 15.000 citizens submit a proposal of a general act which is to be adopted in the Assembly of the Autonomous Province; maximum of 5 percent of the citizens having their habitual residence in the territory of a city submit a proposal of a general act which is to be adopted in the city municipality assembly. Authors of the law give a deadline of 120 days (instead of 70 days in the current law) to collect the signatures.

All this shows that adoption and then a full application of the law on people’s initiative with this conception would significantly contribute to increase of a degree of democracy in the political life of Serbia.

Discussion regarding the Model of the law on people’s initiative was very vivid and mainly led by competent participants, above all lawyers. Snežana Ilić brought up a question of numerous decrees and various by-laws which legally organize and define important social segments in Serbia today, but they cannot be objects of people’s initiatives (e.g. Decree of the Government of Serbia on establishment of the Office for cooperation with civil society; Book of rules on keeping the Register of churches and religious communities; general compulsory instruction of the Republican Broadcasting Agency on conduct of stations…)

After the round table Snežana Ilić agreed with the present distinguished legal experts about the future cooperation within the project Political parties and engaged public. Professors Vodinelić and Gajin are going to take part in the work of an expert round table which will be organized by the CDCS in autumn 2010.