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DEPUTY MINISTERS WITH INTERESTING PAST ATTRACT MEDIA ATTENTION

Smer firmly grasps the wheel

SMER may already have a firm grasp on the state steering wheel, but its leader, Robert Fico, is leaving nothing to chance. Now that it has packed its nominees into the country's most key ministerial posts, the leftist party is installing its deputy ministers at all the governmental departments, except the Health Ministry, which is led by a Smer-appointed minister.

SMER may already have a firm grasp on the state steering wheel, but its leader, Robert Fico, is leaving nothing to chance. Now that it has packed its nominees into the country's most key ministerial posts, the leftist party is installing its deputy ministers at all the governmental departments, except the Health Ministry, which is led by a Smer-appointed minister.

On July 18, the coalition trio - Robert Fico, Ján Slota and Vladimír Mečiar - agreed to apportion half of the 26 deputy ministerial seats (called state secretaries in Slovak) to Smer. Of those posts, 22 have been filled. Fico says the rest will not remain empty for long.

The Slovak National Party (SNS) was given seven deputy minister posts and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) six. Cross supervision among coalition partners will not be maintained at all the ministries.

Several deputy ministerial nominees already serve as parliamentary deputies. They will be replaced by those party candidates ranked below them on the candidate list.

The Ministries of Finance, Interior, Culture and Transport will each have two deputy ministers, one from Smer and one from the SNS. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economy and Labour will also have two, with Smer and the HZDS having a nominee at each ministry. Two deputy ministers, one from Smer and the other from the HZDS, will sit at the Ministries of Education, Environment and Construction. The Ministries of Justice and Agriculture will get two deputy ministers from Smer and the SNS.

The Ministry of Defence will have only one from Smer, while the Health Ministry will have its single deputy minister from the SNS.

Some nominees are being well received. Markets applauded the appointment of František Palko to the post of deputy minister of the Finance Ministry. Palko was formerly head of the ministry's State Budget Policy Department under the management of former Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš.

"This shows that, on a technical level, there could be welcome signs of at least partial continuity in terms of building the state budget," ING Bank Chief Analyst Ján Tóth said.

Meanwhile, the father of tax reform, Richard Sulík, will become the main advisor to Finance Minister Ján Počiatek, who personally offered Sulík the position.

Director of the F A Hayek Foundation Martin Chren told the SITA news wire that both Palko and Sulík are regarded highly.

However, the media attention has not exactly been flattering for some other candidates, whose pasts have been dubbed "interesting", if not "controversial."

Non-governmental environmental organisations associated in the informal platform Ekoforum are appalled by the nomination of businessman Dušan Muňko to the post of deputy minister for the Ministry of Environment.

The SME daily wrote that archives show Muňko collaborated with the ŠtB (the former secret police) during Communism.

He has also made it into the spotlight for allegations he keeps an illegal collection of exotic birds. The general prosecutor even went as far as to request the parliamentary Mandate and Immunity Committee revoke Muňko's deputy minister immunity, but the request was rejected.

Martin Glvač, who will serve as deputy minister at the Ministry of Construction, served in two firms that received support from the Culture Ministry during the Mečiar administration. Glvač is the former partner of Fedor Flašík, who's married to Smer deputy chairwoman Monika Beňová, with whom he worked at the firm Donar, which received the cultural subsidies.

Diana Štrofová will serve as deputy minister of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, though, while married to Jozef Majský, the notorius tycoon charged with fraud associated with the collapse of unlicensed deposit companies, she once tried to smuggle him over the Slovak-Austrian border.

Political analysts say nominees with a shady past do little to add to the government's credibility.

"In the public's eyes, Muňko is morally deficient. Politicians should carefully consider such things and only nominate people who are fully trustworthy," political scientist Miroslav Kusý told The Slovak Spectator.

"It's a stain on the government's image. It's a troubling symptom that certainly decreases its credibility," he added.

According to Kusý, the fact that these nominees will serve in important posts is not enough to renew the public's faith in them.

"Quite the contrary. It demeans the particular state function. Such people should not be in positions of responsibility. Good, respectable political parties carefully choose people who are not under even the slightest shadow of suspicion. And when such a shadow is cast, they are dismissed," Kusý said.

He says that Fico either did not have other suitable nominees or that these choices were being rewarded for their loyalty.

"Regardless, the position of deputy minister is being given out as political compensation," Kusý concluded.


New deputy ministers
Finance Ministry
Peter Kažimír (Smer nominee)
František Palko (SNS)

Health Ministry
Daniel Klačko (SNS)
Labour, Social Affairs
and the Family Ministry

Emília Kršíková (Smer)
Peter Sika (SNS)
Transport, Posts, and Telecommunications Ministry
Milan Mojš (Smer)
Interior Ministry
Jozef Buček (Smer)
Vladimír Čečot (SNS)
Education Ministry
Bibiána Obrimčáková (Smer)
Jozef Habánik (HZDS)
Defence Ministry
Jaroslav Baška (Smer)
Environment Ministry
Dušan Muňko (Smer)
Jaroslav Jaduš (HZDS)
Economy Ministry
Peter Žiga (Smer)
Construction and Regional Development Ministry
Martin Glvač (Smer)
Foreign Affairs Ministry
Diana Štrofová (HZDS)
Justice Ministry
Anna Viteková (Smer)
Daniel Hudák (SNS)
Culture Ministry
Ivan Sečík (Smer)
Augustín Jozef Lang (SNS)
Agriculture Ministry
Marián Záhumenský (Smer)
Viliam Turský (SNS)
Four state secretary posts at the Foreign Affairs Ministry (Smer nominee), Economy Ministry (HZDS nominee), Transport Ministry (SNS nominee) and Construction and Regional Development Ministry (HZDS nominee) remained unfilled.

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