January 7, 2019 / 6:34 PM / 3 months ago

Ousted Slovak PM Fico seeks top court job

FILE PHOTO: Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (not pictured) hold a news conference after a meeting at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium July 27, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Vidal/File Photo

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia’s dominant political figure Robert Fico will run to become a Constitutional Court judge this month, seeking to quit party politics less than a year after he was pushed out of prime minister’s office in the furor over the murder of a journalist.

The murder of Jan Kuciak, who investigated political corruption and EU subsidy fraud, and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova triggered biggest protests since the 1989 fall of communism against the sleaze in politics.

Fico resigned in March after being in power for almost a decade, but remains chairman of the ruling Smer party and is seen as driving policy behind the scenes while party ally Peter Pellegrini serves as prime minister.

Now Fico, 54, who has a law degree and represented Slovakia at the European Court of Human Rights in 1994-2000, has been nominated to become a Constitutional Court judge.

The body is the country’s top court, which rules on whether legislation passed by parliament and judgments by lower courts are in line with the constitution. Former lawmakers have been elected previously to serve on it, but never former party leaders or prime ministers.

The parliament, where the governing coalition has a narrow majority of 76 out of 150 votes, will select 18 candidates to become Constitutional Court judges in a vote later this month.

President Andrej Kiska, who is unaffiliated with any party and who sided with protesters calling for Fico’s ousting, will pick nine of them to replace judges whose term expire on Feb. 16.

The court has 13 judges in total, elected for a term of 12 years.

Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Alison Williams

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