News Briefs

Mečiar, Malíková submit petition for early elections
Parliamentary committee green-lights Lexa's arrest
Schuster speaks to nation from Innsbruck clinic

Mečiar, Malíková submit petition for early elections

Vladimír Mečiar, chairman of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), and Anna Malíková, head of the opposition Slovak National Party (SNS), submitted 21,187 petition sheets with 697,900 signatures calling for a referendum on early elections to Ľudovít Macháček, head of the President's Office in Bratislava on August 8.
The HZDS-proposed referendum question is: "Do you agree that the Slovak Parliament passes a law stipulating that the election term of the Slovak Parliament elected in 1998 ends on the day of new elections to be held within 150 days from the day when the referendum results are announced?"
Originally, the HZDS had planned to hand over the petition to President Rudolf Schuster. However, the party decided against it after Schuster fell ill in late June. Schuster, now recovering from his near-fatal illness in Austria, commissioned Macháček to receive the petition in his name and check the sheets within 25 days.
Mečiar told a press conference after the handover that more than 50% of Slovakia's citizens wished to see early elections. He said they could take place in late November or early December. The latest opinion polls suggest that almost three-fifths of Slovak citizens are against early elections, while only one-third of the respondents said that they would take part in the referendum.


Parliamentary committee green-lights Lexa's arrest

The Slovak Parliament's Mandate and Immunity Committee accepted a prosecutor's proposal for the arrest of fugitive ex-secret service boss Ivan Lexa on August 7. Lexa is accused of several crimes, most notably the 1995 abduction of Michal Kováč Jr., the son of the former president Michal Kováč.
Before an international arrest could be issued, the committee was required to issue its consent to lift Lexa's parliamentary immunity from prosecution. The committee's chairman, Viliam Sopko, said that the body had voted for his arrest because Lexa is facing 11 charges, has refused to cooperate with police, and has apparently fled the country.
Lexa's lawyer, Juraj Trokan, said that by refusing to cooperate with police his client was reserving his 'right to resistance.' Trokan explained that the police would immediately arrest his client were he to reveal his whereabouts, and would therefore remain in hiding. Recent media reports suggested that Lexa had fled to the Carribean island of Grenada, and most recently to South Africa.


Schuster speaks to nation from Innsbruck clinic

Slovak President Rudolf Schuster met with journalists on July 31 at the Innsbruck, Austria clinic, where he continues to recover from his life-threatening bout with a perforated colon, and addressed Slovakia for the first time since his hospitalisation in June.
In his "Statement of the President to the Citizens of the Slovak Republic," Schuster thanked Slovak citizens for their support during his illness, the Austrian doctors who treated him, and his family for arranging his transfer to Innsbruck. During the address, Schuster made no mention of the Slovak doctors who treated him at the beginning of his medical problems.
Shcuster's condition has improved steadily since his arrival in Austria on June 28. The president was moved on August 1 to a health spa in Igls (western Austria) to complete his recovery, and may return to Slovakia by late-August.


Compiled by Chris Togneri from SITA and TASR

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