Coalition plans sweeping changes to state posts

FIVE months after June general elections, the ruling coalition has prepared a wide-reaching personnel reshuffle at regional state administration offices.

FIVE months after June general elections, the ruling coalition has prepared a wide-reaching personnel reshuffle at regional state administration offices.

Although coalition politicians say the professional skills of the people nominated to the state posts will be the deciding factor, the opposition doubts this claim, and has expressed dismay at the extent of the prepared changes.

The Sme daily recently published a list of regional posts that the ruling parties - Smer, the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) - had divided up among themselves in central Slovakia's Banská Bystrica region.

There are almost 300 posts on the list that will see a change in personnel, not only the heads of state administration offices, but even positions in museums, archives, the state opera, and regional public media studios belonging to Slovak Television and Slovak Radio.

According to Sme, out of the total 299 planned replacements in the Banská Bystrica region, Smer, the strongest ruling party, will fill 154, while the SNS will get 79, and the HZDS will take 66.

"There is reason to believe that a similarly extensive reshuffle will take place in the other [seven] regions," said Gyula Bárdos of the opposition Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK).

For several months, the HZDS has been complaining that it is not satisfied with the fact that even months after the elections, the party's members and supporters are still waiting for appointments to state posts.

"[State] posts at the district and regional level are still held by the nominees of the former ruling coalition. Our regional members are disenchanted with this situation," said HZDS MP Ján Kovarčík on November 10. "We don't feel like we are ruling at all," he added.

Following the publication of the list of posts that the coalition plans to fill with its nominees, the opposition said the housecleaning went far beyond what had happened after the previous two changes in government in 1998 and 2002.

"[These changes] cannot be compared to the changes made under our governments", Bárdos said. "What they are planning is ridiculous. The list includes posts in state libraries, museums, and even public television and radio.

"Apparently, now that they've gained power, they think they can decide everything. It reminds me of the period between 1994 and 1998 [under the former Vladimír Mečiar government]. It's just a mockery of all the changes that have taken place in Slovakia from 1998 onwards."

According to former Labour Minister Iveta Radičová, another difference between the new government and the former cabinet in their approaches to filling state posts is that the Mikuláš Dzurinda government carried appointments out through the State Service Bureau, an official recruitment authority, which hired people based on the results of job interviews.

However, even the Dzurinda government regarded the State Service Bureau as superfluous, and Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) pushed to have the bureau abolished, arguing that it was only making the recruitment process more expensive and less flexible.

Members of the current coalition insist, however, that their plans are nothing unusual in Slovak politics, and that they will focus on the professional qualities of the people they appoint.

Jana Laššáková, the head of the Banská Bystrica Smer branch, told Sme that "the cabinet manifesto must be enacted by people who identify with the program".

It remains unclear, however, just what the government's program is regarding state museums and libraries, just as it is unclear how nominating a political appointee to lead the public Slovak Television or Slovak Radio broadcasts can improve the quality and objectivity of their reporting.

According to HZDS MP Jozef Halecký, his party will "take the expert view, and these appointments will be carried out so that experts are nominated to key posts".

"It is not possible to guarantee results without changing the people responsible for them," he said.

Posts as divided by ruling coalition in Banská Bystrica region
Institution Party controlling
Slovak Legal Metrology Bureau HZDS
Regional Development Agency Smer
Regional Veterinary and Food Authority Smer
State Scientific Library SNS
State School Inspection SNS
State Opera Smer
Slovak Statistics Bureau, regional branch Smer
Slovak Tourist Board Smer
Slovak Hydro-Meteorological Institute Smer
Slovak Meteorological Inspectorate Smer
Slovak Water Enterprise Plant (Hron basin) SNS
State District Archives HZDS
Regulatory Office for Network Industries Smer
SAPARD Agency Smer
Slovak Television SNS
Slovak Radio Smer
Labour, Social Affairs and Family Bureau Smer
Regional Police Corps Management NA
Regional Rescue Fire-Brigade Management NA
Slovak Commercial Inspectorate Smer
Statistical and Registration Form Publisher SNS
Dionýz Štúr State Geological Institute Smer
Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre Authority SNS
Rudné Bane state mine Smer
Slovenské Elektrárne utility Smer
SEPS electricity distribution network Smer
Note: SNS = Slovak National Party, HZDS = Movement for a Democratic Slovakia
Source: Sme

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