COOPERATION between the recently-elected regional council in Banská Bystrica Region and its new regional governor, far-right extremist Marian Kotleba, got off to a bumpy start.

The first extraordinary session convened on January 17 in Jelšava after a group of councillors filed a motion on December 23 to discuss several urgent topics.

Squabbling ensued early on in the session after the councillors, most of whom are members of Smer or the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), clashed with Kotleba over the discussion programme. Kotleba refused to hear some of the points they wanted to discuss, including the budget (drafted by the previous leadership under former regional governor Vladimír Maňka of Smer) and appointing a new chief regional auditor (the current auditor’s term ends in mid-February), the TASR newswire reported.

Kotleba argued that they missed the deadline for submitting their proposal. The councillors first insisted that the extraordinary session must stick to the programme that it was originally proposed with. After two hours of bickering, the councillors withdrew the points they sought to cover from the programme.

“In the interest of future cooperation and to prevent doubts about the lawfulness of the proceeding of proposing the budget, I withdraw this point from the programme,” said Smer councillor Jaroslav Demian, as quoted by the Sme daily.

The region is currently functioning with a provisional budget.

“Thank God we are in provisional budget mode, because we can only cover the necessary expenses,” Kotleba said, as quoted by Sme, adding that this allows him to prevent certain grants from late 2013 from being paid out.

Following the session, Kotleba informed that he was planning to propose the draft budget at the regional council’s February session. He claimed the budget will differ from the one prepared by the previous regional leaders, the SITA newswire reported.

Meanwhile, observers have expressed concern about the conduct of the new regional governor, who is widely known for his extremist views.

Both the session in Jelšava, as well as the previous ceremonial first session of the newly-elected regional council, were guarded by several men who at the first session donned green t-shirts with the logo of Kotleba’s party, and later in Jelšava wore black jumpers with the BBSK (Banská Bystrica Self-Governing Region) acronym on them.

Some positions at the office of the region have been filled with people with ties to Kotleba or his party, People’s Party-Our Slovakia (ĽSNS). Martin Beluský, the head of the party, was appointed the director of the office of the region. Jana Štrangfeldová, who was Kotleba’s advisor ahead of the regional elections, now heads Kotleba’s office. Miroslav Belička, who according to Sme was Kotleba’s right hand man, accompanying him at meetings and organising his media communication, is now the head of public relations and protocol.

All of these people were appointed without an official selection procedure, which is not required by law. The previous leadership, however, used to fill these positions through a selection process, Sme noted.

With press reports