Slovak Presidential Elections
- The Slovaks will be electing their new president this weekend. Although
the president can return a bill to the parliament, in which case it needs
to be passed by a larger majority, it is just a ceremonial office. The
Slovak (and European in general) president is not the head of the
government (that is the prime minister), does not choose the cabinet, does
not run the government. The government emerges as a result of
parliamentary elections in Europe.
Unless someone gets more than 50% in the first round (not very likely),
there will be another round with just the two candidates who got the most
Below is a roundup of what's going on from The Financial Times (London).
votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu
x x x
'Older and wiser' Meciar hopes for a comeback as Slovakia joins EU
Three-time premier and leader of the largest party is trailing in the
polls for this weekend's first round (non-executive president). His best
chance may come in the 2006 elections.
The Financial Times (European edition), 4/1/2004
Vladimir Meciar, the former Slovak premier who was shunned by the European
Union and NATO, has two opportunities to make a comeback this weekend and
shock both organisations just as they welcome Slovakia as a new member.
On Saturday Slovaks will cast their ballots to determine who will be their
new non-executive president and whether their centre-right government
should be recalled two years early. The country's laws allow Slovaks to
call a referendum if enough signatures are gathered among the electorate.
Trade unionists, angry at benefit cuts, managed to raise close to 600,000
- more than enough to prompt a recall vote, which happened to coincides
with a presidential election.
Mr Meciar, a three-time premier and leader of Slovakia's largest party,
backs the recall referendum and is himself standing for the second time as
president. If he succeeds in either vote, he could once again be the
centre of attention after languishing in opposition for almost six years.
During his last term as premier between 1994 and 1998, Mr Meciar led
Slovakia into diplomatic isolation by trying to stifle political
opposition and whip up nationalism against neighbouring Hungary.
Mr Meciar, now 61, claims to be "older and wiser" these days, even if he
still finds it hard to apologise for past mistakes. He has adopted a more
conciliatory, even humble manner in television appearances, a
transformation the more marked because of his newly dyed hair. His HZDS
party has also had a facelift, adding the prefix "People's Party" as proof
of its intention to join the centre-right bloc in the European Parliament
After initial wobbles the HZDS is now strongly pro-EU. EU officials admit
privately that Mr Meciar's public support was vital last year in securing
the required 50 per cent turnout in the referendum on membership.
The HZDS has also supported the minority government in several key
parliamentary votes, fuelling allegations from other opposition parties
that Mr Meciar has reached a secret deal with the prime minister, Mikulas
Dzurinda, in return for the police not pursuing their investigation into
his private finances.
If Mr Meciar becomes president or simply retires, it is now likely that
the HZDS could join the current coalition after the next election, a move
that would heal the rupture his last government caused and help
restructure Slovak politics along ideological rather than personal lines.
Mr Meciar believes any lingering doubts that the EU and Nato may have
about him will be dispelled once he becomes president.
"When (Silvio) Berlusconi was sworn in as (Italian) prime minister, many
politicians did not want to shake hands with him," Mr Meciar says.
"Now they have no problem with that. After (Wolfgang) Schussel's
government was formed, Austria fell into isolation. Is there any isolation
now? All of these were just temporary."
Nevertheless, Slovak voters appear to retain enough doubts to deny Mr
Meciar the chance to rehabilitate his reputation. Though he remains
popular in mountain districts for leading the country to independence in
1993, his folksy charm does not work on urban voters. In the latest
opinion polls he trails Eduard Kukan, the foreign minister, by 27 to 24
per cent, a margin that is likely to widen in the run-off on April 17.
The recall referendum also offers Mr Meciar only an outside chance of
success. Voters are angry at the government's increases in indirect taxes
and cuts in social benefits but they remain apathetic.
Two-thirds of voters say they intend to vote, but less than the required
50 per cent are expected to turn out. The embattled four-party coalition
therefore looks likely to soldier on, particularly while the opposition
remains paralysed by the rivalry between Mr Meciar and Robert Fico, the
aggressive young populist who has overtaken him in opinion polls.
Mr Meciar's chance of making a comeback -- or at least ensuring himself a
peaceful retirement -- will probably have to wait until the 2006 general