Interior Minister Pittner threatens ban of HZDS
Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said November 27 that he would propose banning the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party led by three-time ex-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar if its members were convicted of having committed serious crimes while the party was in power.
Pittner said that the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), under the leadership of HZDS member Ivan Lexa (who is now evading an international warrant for his arrest), is under investigation for committing several serious crimes, including conspiracy to undermine former president Michal Kováč, abducting his son to Austria, and planting explosives at a Christian Democrats (KDH) party meeting.
Were he to ban the party, Pittner said, the step would be in accordance with Slovak law, which reads: "Any political parties or movements that violate the constitution and laws, or whose goal it is to undermine the democratic foundation of the state, shall be banned".
The HZDS responded with a press release stating that Pittner's comments were proof that democracy was being destroyed in Slovakia, and that the country was becoming a police state. The proposal, the HZDS said, calls into question whether "the Slovak Republic is and will be a democratic state subject to the rule of law".
The minister was also called on during a three hour cabinet session on November 29 to explain his comments, emerging, according to Health Minister Roman Kováč, with the "full confidence" of his colleagues.
Parliament approves KDH as a separate caucus
Parliament approved the formation of the Christian Democrats (KDH) party as an independent caucus on November 28. KDH leader Pavol Hrušovský had just days before signed an amendment to the ruling coalition agreement with the heads of other coalition parties, a deal which took the KDH out of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) party and made it a fifth member of the ruling coalition formed after national elections in 1998. Of 98 members of parliament present, 96 voted in favour of the proposal while two abstained.
Former HZDS mouthpiece bought by American
The Slovenská Republika daily newspaper, the former mouthpiece of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), has been bought by Slovak American Leopold Danihel, who is also a shareholder in the Slovak daily Narodná Obroda. Initial reports stated that the daily's circulation would be discontinued by November 30 at the latest.
Republika's readership has fallen off since the establishment of the HZDS's new mouthpiece Nový Deň in late 1999. Danihel was reportedly planning to add Republika writers to the Narodná Obroda staff to write business stories as a means of winning over former readers of Slovenska Republika; he did not, however, plan to hire Republika's current political news staff.
Fico wants to raise parliamentary qualification to 8%
Róbert Fico, the head of the non-parliamentary Smer party, has proposed that the percentage of votes needed for parties to qualify for parliamentary seats be raised from the current 5% level to 8%. He said his proposal was a response to the recent 'destabilising' actions of government parties, who number 11 in the current ruling coalition.
"Small parties in Slovakia must not be allowed to make such a mess here," he said. Fico added that his proposal may be supported by the SDKÚ (led by Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda), and the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and Slovak National Party (SNS).
Compiled by Chris Togneri
from SITA and TASR