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Hungarians threaten to quit coalition

The simmering discontent of the Hungarian Coalition Party with its government partners boiled over last week as Hungarian leader Béla Bugár threatened to leave the ruling coalition if his demands for the planned reshaping of Slovakia's regional governments was not met.
"The fact that of the government's 22 priorities, the only ones that have been neglected are those that are sensitive for the Hungarian Coalition Party, simply strengthens voices [among the party's voters] that ask 'Why are we in the government?'" said Bugár August 18.
The Hungarians' most recent complaint is that the party's demand that the government create a new region in the country dominated by ethnic Hungarians has not been met. The new region would have southern Slovakia's Komárno as its capital, according to Bugár, and would add a 13th district to a plan to redivide the country into 12 rather than the current 8 administrative regions.


Hungarian leader Béla Bugár says he is tired of pleading with government colleagues like Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda to honour their commitments to his Hungarian Party.
photo: TASR

The simmering discontent of the Hungarian Coalition Party with its government partners boiled over last week as Hungarian leader Béla Bugár threatened to leave the ruling coalition if his demands for the planned reshaping of Slovakia's regional governments was not met.

"The fact that of the government's 22 priorities, the only ones that have been neglected are those that are sensitive for the Hungarian Coalition Party, simply strengthens voices [among the party's voters] that ask 'Why are we in the government?'" said Bugár August 18.

The Hungarians' most recent complaint is that the party's demand that the government create a new region in the country dominated by ethnic Hungarians has not been met. The new region would have southern Slovakia's Komárno as its capital, according to Bugár, and would add a 13th district to a plan to redivide the country into 12 rather than the current 8 administrative regions.

"If we are not successful in effecting the demands of our voters, I could imagine that we would be forced to leave the ruling coalition," the Hungarian leader added.

Bugár's coalition partners responded harshly to the threat, with Party of Civic Reconciliation (SOP) boss Pavol Hamžík accusing him of "irresponsibility" in "putting coalition parties up against a wall in such a fashion".

"This was an exceptionally irresponsible step from the Hungarian Party, particularly as we still have to approve an amendment to the Constitution," Hamžík continued. The Hungarians have objected to the government's proposed amendment of the country's most important legal document, citing a preamble which they feel puts too much emphasis on the ethnic rather than the civic aspects of being Slovak. Unless Hungarian MPs support the constitutional renewal, the government will not have the votes to make the changes it wants.

Ivan Šimko, an MP with the ruling SDK party, added that "it's not good when a politician who bears joint responsibility for government policy makes such categorical statements".

But Bugár, who has been infuriated by the refusal of the former communist Democratic Left Party to fulfill a coalition commitment to return land to Hungarian municipalities, is clearly not in a mood to pull punches. In a lengthy interview with the opinion-making journal Domino fórum in mid August, Bugár claimed that his aim in pushing for a Hungarian dominated region, rather than going along with the government plan in which no new region would have more than a 30% Hungarian population, was to ensure that the interests of Slovak Hungarians would be looked after.

"Our experience has taught us that whenever anyone else has decided our affairs for us, we have paid the price," he said.

Bugár added that he was prepared to vote against the government's entire administrative reform programme if he didn't get his way. "I thought that four years would be enough to convince everyone that we don't want to endanger the integrity of the state or of its borders," he said. "Unfortunately, we are still getting signals from inside the ruling coalition that this is exactly what we are after."

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