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Slovakia - Second round

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  • Martin Votruba
    Many Slovaks will wake up on Sunday feeling that the second round is coming on April 17 in more than one sense. If the preliminary results from the Election
    Message 1 of 13 , Apr 3, 2004
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      Many Slovaks will wake up on Sunday feeling that the second round is
      coming on April 17 in more than one sense.

      If the preliminary results from the Election Committee are confirmed,
      the second round of the presidential elections will decide between the
      former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, and his former close ally Ivan
      Gasparovic.

      52.0% - didn't vote
      15.7% - Vladimir Meciar - former prime minister, HZDS party
      10.7% - Ivan Gasparovic - Meciar's ex-ally, founder of a splinter party
      10.6% - Eduard Kukan - Foreign Minister, current cabinet
      3.6% - Rudolf Schuster - current President
      3.1% - Frantisek Miklosko
      3.1% - Martin Butora - Slovakia's ambassador to US until 2001


      When Meciar was the Prime Minister, Gasparovic was the Speaker of the
      Parliament. Both were leading members of the HZDS party shunned by the
      West. After their party was voted out in 1998, the West approved and
      Slovakia has quickly caught up with the leaders among the
      post-communist
      nations. Having been dropped from the list of the first wave of NATO's
      post-communist enlargement, it joined NATO this past week and is
      lined up to join the European Union in 3 weeks.

      Gasparovic left the HZDS and founded a new party in 2002, but it failed
      to win seats in the Parliament.

      The result of this presidential election resembles the results of
      Slovak
      elections before 1998: while Slovakia has had substantially more
      opponents than supporters of the HZDS, the preferences of Meciar's
      opponents were dispersed, and the HZDS won by default. On the other
      hand, Meciar's and HZDS's supporters are dedicated voters. Any
      dispersion or resignation among HZDS's opponents plays to his
      advantage.

      The president has the right to return bills to the Parliament, but
      otherwise is just a figurehead in Slovakia and most European countries,
      which are run by coalition cabinets under the prime minister.

      However, it is formally the highest office in the country, and the
      preliminary results suggest that the West may have to deal with one, or
      the other former top leader of the harshly criticized HZDS as one of
      the
      leaders of the expanded European Union. The accession of Slovakia is
      scheduled for May 1.

      Many in Slovakia will feel that candidates like Miklosko (attracting
      conservative, strongly Catholic voters) and Butora (favored by
      pro-Western enthusiasts) lured away precious votes from Kukan who --
      although criticized for his former Communist Party membership -- would
      have been the preferred candidate for a large majority of Slovaks in a
      two-candidate presidential contest with Meciar according to opinion
      polls.

      Others will criticize the present government for not endorsing any
      candidate. Kukan, Miklosko and Butora, and in a less straightforward
      manner Schuster were all supporters of the present ruling coalition.

      According to the preliminary results, the difference between Gasparovic
      and Kukan was 3,644 votes.


      Martin

      votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu



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    • Martin Votruba
      ... I agree, Scott. It ll be interesting to see whether the present government will adopt any particular strategy to support the candidacy of Ivan Gasparovic.
      Message 2 of 13 , Apr 4, 2004
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        > It will be very interesting if Meciar wins the Presidency, it will be a
        > big embarrassment for the Dzurinda govt. The EU and NATO will be raising
        > their eyebrows...

        I agree, Scott. It'll be interesting to see whether the present
        government will adopt any particular strategy to support the candidacy of
        Ivan Gasparovic. Although Vladimir Meciar's former close ally, his name
        does not have the immediate international recognition, and he parted with
        Meciar a couple of years ago.

        Among the candidates who may be seen as having reduced Eduard Kukan's
        chances of winning, Martin Butora does not feel he should not have run.

        Butora was Slovakia's ambassador to the US till 2003 (I mistyped the year
        in my previous message), while Kukan was his boss -- the Foreign Minister,
        well accepted by the West.

        In a Sunday interview, Butora said: "As a presidential candidate, I am
        pleased with my own results; as a sociologist, I am surprised by the final
        result; and as a citizen, I am miffed." He has said that he will not
        advise his voters which of the two candidates -- Meciar or Gasparovic --
        to vote for in the second round.

        Butora got 6.5% of the valid votes (i.e., 3.1% of the adult
        population/eligible voters).


        Martin

        votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu
      • capt jack
        I just spoke with my cousin in Slovakia, this Sunday, her son was working at the voting place, and he said there was less than a 50% turn out for the
        Message 3 of 13 , Apr 4, 2004
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          I just spoke with my cousin in Slovakia, this Sunday, her son was working at the voting place, and he said there was less than a 50% turn out for the elections.

          capt.


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Scott T. Mikusko
          ... Yup, the referendum they tried to push for early parliamentary elections failed because they only got 35% of the voters and needed 50%+1 in order to make
          Message 4 of 13 , Apr 4, 2004
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            On Sun, 4 Apr 2004, capt jack wrote:

            > I just spoke with my cousin in Slovakia, this Sunday, her son was working at the voting place, and he said there was less than a 50% turn out for the elections.
            >
            > capt.

            Yup, the referendum they tried to push for early parliamentary elections
            failed because they only got 35% of the voters and needed 50%+1 in order
            to make it valid.

            I think, in general, Slovaks are really disgusted and cynical about their
            politics because of the last 10 years. Hopefully it will improve in time,
            but it's hard to blame them for their apathy.

            -S
          • Martin Votruba
            ... That s what the numbers in my previous post showed quite clearly: 52% didn t vote. That means that the turnout was 48% (47.94% to be precise). The Slovaks
            Message 5 of 13 , Apr 4, 2004
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              > her son was working at the voting place, and he said there was less than
              > a 50% turn out for the elections.

              That's what the numbers in my previous post showed quite clearly:

              52% didn't vote.

              That means that the turnout was 48% (47.94% to be precise).

              The Slovaks have been quite conscientious voters. Slovakia's turnouts in
              parliamentary elections have been 70%-85%. This turnout appears to
              reflect the Slovaks' dissatisfaction with the present government. While a
              large majority of the Slovaks reject Meciar, they don't seem to see an
              obvious alternative to both him and the present government. Gasparovic's
              success must be ascribed to the endorsement he got from the major
              opposition non-HZDS party "Smer."

              By contrast in the US, where the president is actually the head of the
              executive and matters a lot, the turnout in 2000 was 51% of the adult
              population, 67% of the registered voters.


              Martin

              votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu
            • Martin Votruba
              ... I agree, Scott. Some would say that because of the last 50, 60, or even 1200 years. The Slovak lands have not yet had a period of politics particularly
              Message 6 of 13 , Apr 4, 2004
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                > disgusted and cynical about their politics because of the last 10 years

                I agree, Scott. Some would say that because of the last 50, 60, or even
                1200 years. The Slovak lands have not yet had a period of politics
                particularly concerned specifically with their overall economic and social
                development. Not that it was all bad, but it wasn't seen as "Slovak."
                "Politics" mostly meant "somewhere else" -- Vienna, Budapest, Prague,
                Berlin, Moscow (even Salzburg, if we go back to the 9th century). Now
                Bratislava is beginning to appear rather alien to the rest of Slovakia.


                Martin

                votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu
              • Vladimir Bohinc
                Dear Scott, When listening to what the candidates were saying in their campaign I must admit, Meciar was the one, who made the best impression and his words
                Message 7 of 13 , Apr 4, 2004
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                  Dear Scott,

                  When listening to what the candidates were saying in their campaign I must admit, Meciar was the one, who made the best impression and his words made the best sense in regard to current situation here and future options.
                  He gives an impression to be a monolithe.
                  Vladimir

                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: Scott T. Mikusko
                  To: Slovak-World@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Sunday, April 04, 2004 10:14 PM
                  Subject: Re: [Slovak-World] Slovakia - Second round


                  On Sun, 4 Apr 2004, capt jack wrote:

                  > I just spoke with my cousin in Slovakia, this Sunday, her son was working at the voting place, and he said there was less than a 50% turn out for the elections.
                  >
                  > capt.

                  Yup, the referendum they tried to push for early parliamentary elections
                  failed because they only got 35% of the voters and needed 50%+1 in order
                  to make it valid.

                  I think, in general, Slovaks are really disgusted and cynical about their
                  politics because of the last 10 years. Hopefully it will improve in time,
                  but it's hard to blame them for their apathy.

                  -S


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                • Scott T. Mikusko
                  ... Yes, but does Meciar really believe that or is he just saying that to get the votes? I find it hard to believe that he s really changed his skin. Although
                  Message 8 of 13 , Apr 5, 2004
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                    On Mon, 5 Apr 2004, Vladimir Bohinc wrote:

                    > Dear Scott,
                    >
                    > When listening to what the candidates were saying in their campaign I
                    > must admit, Meciar was the one, who made the best impression and his
                    > words made the best sense in regard to current situation here and future
                    > options. He gives an impression to be a monolithe. Vladimir

                    Yes, but does Meciar really believe that or is he just saying that to get
                    the votes? I find it hard to believe that he's really changed his skin.
                    Although he tends to run as a populist, saying what the people want to
                    hear, I wonder how committed he'd be to pro-market reforms, working with
                    NATO and the EU.

                    He was such a scoundrel when in power. A lot of people liked him, even
                    when he was corrupt, silencing the free press, limiting rights, and
                    basically tending to be more like the old hardliners from the Communist
                    era. Well, that was the perception in the West anyways.

                    Then again, one could make an argument that the pro-market reformers and
                    pro-West centre-right crowd are just as bad!

                    -S
                  • William F Brna
                    On Mon, 5 Apr 2004 , Scott T. Mikusko wrote ... This brings up two considerations: first, the same thing applies to any politician regardless of the country,
                    Message 9 of 13 , Apr 5, 2004
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                      On Mon, 5 Apr 2004 , Scott T. Mikusko wrote>
                      > Yes, but does Meciar really believe that or is he just saying that
                      > to get
                      > the votes? I find it hard to believe that he's really changed his
                      > skin.
                      > Although he tends to run as a populist, saying what the people want
                      > to
                      > hear, I wonder how committed he'd be to pro-market reforms, working
                      > with
                      > NATO and the EU.
                      >
                      > He was such a scoundrel when in power. A lot of people liked him,
                      > even
                      > when he was corrupt, silencing the free press, limiting rights, and
                      > basically tending to be more like the old hardliners from the
                      > Communist
                      > era. Well, that was the perception in the West anyways.
                      >
                      > Then again, one could make an argument that the pro-market reformers
                      > and
                      > pro-West centre-right crowd are just as bad!
                      >
                      > -S

                      This brings up two considerations: first, the same thing applies to any
                      politician regardless of the country, and second, what right do we have
                      to meddle in the internal affairs of another country?

                      Bill Brna

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                    • Vladimir Linder
                      Right on, you don t have the right to meddle in the internal affairs of another country!! Howevermore people will go and vote now in the second round and will
                      Message 10 of 13 , Apr 5, 2004
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                        Right on, you don't have the right to meddle in the internal affairs of
                        another country!!

                        Howevermore people will go and vote now in the second round and will make
                        sure that Meciar won't become the next president as they feel it will be a
                        disaster. So they will vote for the lesser of the two evils Gasparovic,
                        also a communist.

                        Vladi





                        At 03:18 PM 4/5/2004, you wrote:

                        >On Mon, 5 Apr 2004 , Scott T. Mikusko wrote>
                        > > Yes, but does Meciar really believe that or is he just saying that
                        > > to get
                        > > the votes? I find it hard to believe that he's really changed his
                        > > skin.
                        > > Although he tends to run as a populist, saying what the people want
                        > > to
                        > > hear, I wonder how committed he'd be to pro-market reforms, working
                        > > with
                        > > NATO and the EU.
                        > >
                        > > He was such a scoundrel when in power. A lot of people liked him,
                        > > even
                        > > when he was corrupt, silencing the free press, limiting rights, and
                        > > basically tending to be more like the old hardliners from the
                        > > Communist
                        > > era. Well, that was the perception in the West anyways.
                        > >
                        > > Then again, one could make an argument that the pro-market reformers
                        > > and
                        > > pro-West centre-right crowd are just as bad!
                        > >
                        > > -S
                        >
                        >This brings up two considerations: first, the same thing applies to any
                        >politician regardless of the country, and second, what right do we have
                        >to meddle in the internal affairs of another country?
                        >
                        >Bill Brna
                        >
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                      • Scott T. Mikusko
                        ... Well, true it can apply to any country s politicians... including our own! It s not meddling in their intenals affairs, we ought not have that right ...
                        Message 11 of 13 , Apr 5, 2004
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                          On Mon, 5 Apr 2004, William F Brna wrote:

                          > On Mon, 5 Apr 2004 , Scott T. Mikusko wrote>
                          >
                          > This brings up two considerations: first, the same thing applies to any
                          > politician regardless of the country, and second, what right do we have
                          > to meddle in the internal affairs of another country?
                          >
                          > Bill Brna

                          Well, true it can apply to any country's politicians... including our own!

                          It's not meddling in their intenals affairs, we ought not have that
                          'right'... even though we do and have done so in many cases.

                          My point is, based on seeing the political history of Slovakia, I
                          woulnd't take Meciar's apparent change of tune at face value. If he gets
                          the presidency, the proof will be in his actions.

                          The real fight will be in stamping out corruption and cronyism in the
                          Slovak govt. I think the people want real leadership. Granted, it's hard
                          to be decisive when you are dealing with coalition govts.


                          -S
                        • Martin Votruba
                          ... I agree, Scott. ... The Slovak President has no chance to do anything about it. He can just talk, should anyone care to listen. He is _not_ the head of
                          Message 12 of 13 , Apr 5, 2004
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                            > I wouldn't take Meciar's apparent change of tune at face value

                            I agree, Scott.

                            > The real fight will be in stamping out corruption and cronyism

                            The Slovak President has no chance to do anything about it. He can just
                            talk, should anyone care to listen.

                            He is _not_ the head of the government, just a ceremonial figurehead, kind
                            of an elected constitutional king (like in those European countries that
                            still have royalty).

                            The Slovak President has no business attending the Cabinet's meetings, has
                            no say in the cabinet's composition, no say in its policies, in the
                            country's defense... The Slovaks actually expect the President to leave
                            his political party when elected, and appear to be non-political,
                            non-partisan.

                            The Slovak Cabinet does not answer to the President -- it answers to the
                            Parliament. The Cabinet's head, i.e., the chief of the executive is the
                            Prime Minister, not the president. The Prime Minister's office is the
                            Slovak parallel to the office of the U.S. President.

                            The only political thing the Slovak President can do is return a bill
                            (drawn up by the Cabinet, not him, and passed by the Parliament) to the
                            Parliament for another vote.

                            But even that is much less of a deal than when the U.S. President returns
                            a bill to Congress (although it can prove troublesome given the
                            multi-party composition of Slovak Parliament).

                            In Slovakia, such a returned bill has to be passed by merely more than 50%
                            of all the Members of Parliament. To be specific, in the 150-member
                            single-chamber Parliament, it has to get at least 76 votes no matter how
                            many legislators are present.

                            Otherwise, a bill is passed by just the majority of the Members of
                            Parliament present for the given vote, provided that more than 50% of all
                            the Members of Parliament are present. That is to say that -- minimally
                            -- if at least 76 Members of Parliament are present of whom at least 39
                            vote for the bill, it is passed.


                            Martin

                            votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu
                          • Martin Votruba
                            The NYT had a review of the Slovaks options in the second round off presidential elections comingg up this weekend. The article is below. Martin votruba at
                            Message 13 of 13 , Apr 12, 2004
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                              The NYT had a review of the Slovaks' options in the second round off
                              presidential elections comingg up this weekend. The article is below.


                              Martin

                              votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu

                              x x x

                              Past Haunts Future in Slovakia's Election

                              by Mark Landler, NYT 4/11

                              For this upwardly mobile Central European country, still in its gawky
                              adolescence as an independent state, this spring should have been a proud
                              coming of age.

                              Slovakia was admitted to NATO this month, after a delay of several years.
                              On May 1, it will join the European Union, along with Poland, the Czech
                              Republic, Hungary and six other countries.

                              But a ghost from its political past has reappeared, casting a pall over
                              the celebration and reminding Slovaks of the intractable pull of history.

                              Vladimir Meciar, the autocratic former prime minister who led Slovakia
                              after its split with the Czech Republic in 1993, has unexpectedly become
                              the favorite to be the country's next president.

                              On April 3, he won the first round of an election while the candidate of
                              the governing party failed to attract enough votes to qualify for a runoff
                              election on April 17, which sets up Mr. Meciar for a victory.

                              Mr. Meciar, a hulking former boxer with a charismatic speaking style,
                              turned his country into a near pariah state in the mid-1990's with his
                              virulent nationalism and trampling of human rights.

                              Crony capitalism rotted the economy, driving away foreign investors and
                              leaving Slovakia impoverished.

                              "This is a disaster for our country's image," said Grigorij Meseznikov,
                              the president of the Institute for Public Affairs, an independent research
                              organization in Bratislava, the capital. "He represents people who are
                              anticapitalist, isolationist and nostalgic for the past. He's not a
                              politician of the future."

                              Monica Benova, a member of Parliament from a leftist populist party,
                              likens Mr. Meciar, 61, to Kurt Waldheim, the former president of Austria,
                              whose past as a Nazi officer, and his subsequent amnesia about it,
                              consigned his country to a political purgatory while he was in office.

                              "How can we be sure he won't abuse the powers of his office, like he did
                              the last time?" Ms. Benova asked. "He's trying to sound different, but
                              it's just a mask. He's still the same person."

                              Mr. Meciar (pronounced METCH-yahr) won 32.7% of the vote in the first
                              round. In a surprise attributed to a low voter turnout, the governing
                              coalition's candidate, Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, finished third,
                              narrowly beaten by a former close associate of Mr. Meciar, Ivan
                              Gasparovic.

                              The runoff, commentators here say, is a choice between two evils. Mr.
                              Meciar declined a request for an interview.

                              In Slovakia, as in Austria, the presidency is mostly a ceremonial job. The
                              president can hold up legislation passed by the Parliament, which can
                              override his veto.

                              While he appoints ambassadors and senior military officers, he is supposed
                              to stick to the prime minister's recommendations.

                              As head of state, however, Mr. Meciar would be a symbol. It is a role he
                              would no doubt relish, having virtually personified Slovakia's birth as a
                              nation.

                              In one of history's wrinkles, the current Czech president, Vaclav Klaus,
                              was the prime minister with whom Mr. Meciar negotiated the Czechoslovakian
                              divorce.

                              Now the two leaders, each known for his bruising manner and deep
                              skepticism about Europe, may find themselves together on a dais,
                              celebrating the integration of their sister lands into Europe.

                              It is unlikely, however, that Mr. Meciar will be invited to the White
                              House. The United States is inclined to spurn him, said a Western diplomat
                              here, who spoke anonymously as is standard practice when dealing with such
                              issues.

                              European leaders may do likewise, although the diplomat predicted that the
                              European Union would not impose sanctions, as it did on Austria after the
                              party of the right-wing leader, Jrg Haider, joined its government.

                              "Brussels recognizes that the sanctions on Austria backfired," the
                              diplomat said. "The Slovakia of 2004 is also not the Slovakia of the
                              mid-1990's."

                              Still, for a minority of Slovaks who live in the isolated, rural east,
                              Europe looms as a threat. They fear that Slovakia, overshadowed for
                              centuries by the more prosperous Czechs, will be swallowed up in a vast
                              union its 5.4 million people a drop in an ocean of the union's 450
                              million.

                              "People are afraid of rising prices, of lower wages, of foreigners coming
                              in and buying all our property," said Stefan Lukacovic, 54, as he hurried
                              home through the winding streets of Bratislava's old town.

                              Mr. Meciar speaks to these disenfranchised people. They vote reliably for
                              his party, ignoring accusations that he profited from the sale of state
                              companies, or that he was involved in the kidnapping of the son of a
                              former Slovak president in 1995, or even that Slovakia was rebuffed in the
                              first round of NATO expansion because of Western distaste for his rule.
                              For Mr. Meciar's critics, the only consolation is that his voters tend to
                              be older, which means they are dying off.

                              "Some changes are not reversible," Mr. Meseznikov said. "He hasn't
                              changed, but the country is changing."
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