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Slovak Presidential Elections

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  • Martin Votruba
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2004
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      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
      votes.

      Below is a roundup of what's going on from The Financial Times (London).


      Martin

      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
      in June.

      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
      election.
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