Pavol Rusko, flanked by his new political colleagues, announces the launch of his ANO ('yes') party.
The name of Rusko's new party, he announced at a press conference in Bratislava, will be the New Alliance of Citizens, or ANO (meaning 'yes').
ANO's line-up includes former Markíza journalists, a current member of parliament, prominent athletes, an academic involved in Project Infovek (a scheme to link schools to the Internet), a spa director, and a nuclear physicist.
Rusko described his party as right-centrist with free-market values. The new leaders of ANO said that Rusko, by surrounding himself with a largely apolitical group, had created a party structure which would serve "the future of Slovakia", rather than just the interests of one of the most powerful men in the country, as analysts have warned.
"I joined because Rusko selected young, excellent apolitical people," said Beáta Brestenská, an academic at Comenius University in Bratislava and a co-founder of Infovek. "We all have something to offer the future of Slovakia."
The public appears unconvinced: according to a March poll conducted by the MVK agency, when asked whether voters would support the party, 4.1% said 'yes' or 'probably yes', while 81.7% said 'no' or 'probably not'.
Political analysts, meanwhile, were dubious of Rusko's intentions. "I keep asking myself, 'What does he get out of it?'" said Grigorij Mesežnikov, head of the Bratislava-based Institute for Public Affairs think tank. "He already has money, influence and power. Why does he need to go into politics?"
Rusko says the reason is simple: Slovakia needs him. "Seventy-five percent of the people are not satisfied with the country's development, more than 52% want parliament to have a new look after the new elections, 33% don't want to or don't know if they will vote," Rusko said, citing studies by the MVK polling agency. "That's what I call a demand [for change]."
According to a poll by the Market & Media & Lifestyle agency last August, when asked what stations they had watched the day before, 74% of respondents said Markíza, followed by 30% for the state-run STV 1 channel and 17% for the Czech station Nova.
Analyst Mesežnikov said that he believed Rusko would use his hugely influential Markíza station to support his party. "I wouldn't underestimate his chances [at success]. Rusko has many tools behind him, like the media he owns."
Brestenská said she understood the analyst's media influence concerns, but insisted that ANO would not be a vehicle for Rusko's personal ambitions.
"Rusko is a complex person with two faces: one good, one dangerous," she said. "But he is a good manager - as you can see from what he did with Markíza - and he has lots of money. The best thing he did was to surround himself with 14 strong people.
"We asked him if ANO would be a party with [a united] leadership, or if we would just be expected to dance around to Rusko's orders," she continued. "He made it clear that this party is not for Rusko, that Rusko is for us."
Other members of the ANO leadership include businessmen such as the Slovak International Tabak company's Jozef Banáš, vice-chairman of the Bank Austria board of directors Imrich Béreš, and Financial Market Office head Michal Horvath.
Current member of parliament for the ruling Party of Civic Reconciliation (SOP) Jirko Malchárek, who used to host an auto show on Markíza, is also an ANO member, as is nuclear physicist Jozef Masarik.
Sporting figures included on the leadership council are football player Dušan Tittel (a member of the national team who currently plays for Slovan Bratislava), Anton Danko (a former hockey referee and the current Deputy Mayor of Prešov), and basketball player Stanislav Kropilák.
Former Markíza journalists, such as news anchor Eva Černa and desk chief Ľubomír Linter, were also included.
30. Apr 2001 at 0:00 | Chris Togneri