IN SHORT

Speculation over presidential race heats up

VLADIMÍR Mečiar, leader of the ruling-coalition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the former prime minister, says he's not interested in running for president.

Mečiar made the comments on a politics show on September 16, the TASR newswire reported. He also named Prime Minister Robert Fico as the best candidate for the post.

Slovaks will elect the next head of state in 2009.

Political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov said he considers Mečiar's comments to be part of his strategy.

"Mečiar as a realist is not so naive to assume that Robert Fico, who at the moment is enjoying the position of the most powerful man in Slovakia, would sacrifice this to run for the post of president," he told TASR.

It's understandable that the HZDS doesn't support current President Ivan Gašparovič, who is prepared to run for the post again, Mesežnikov said. Mečiar can't forgive Gašparovič for leaving the HZDS in 2002 and thus weakening his party.

"The personal animosity is very strong," he said. "The way in which Mečiar is presenting it indicates that he still views the current president as a strong rival and as a traitor."

Mesežnikov doesn't rule out the possibility of Mečiar running for president in the next election. He says that it's quite possible that he will agree to run later, under pressure from "certain events," like he did in 2004.

"(It would be) the same as it was in past elections, when he refused, only to agree to it after all," Mesežnikov said.

The results of a public opinion poll ordered by the Hospodárske Noviny daily show opposition MP Iveta Radičová has a chance to become the first female president of Slovakia. Gašparovič enjoys the support of 20 percent of Slovaks, and 10 percent would vote for Radičová.

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