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Re: [Slovak-World] Slovakia - Second round

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  • 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 1 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,

      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.


      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 2 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.


        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

        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

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

        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

        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

        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

        "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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