Rift between coalition partners widens
Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda said he did not see any reason to reopen the coalition agreement (the basis of co-operation between ruling coalition parties forged in October 1998), a move which was proposed by the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) Republic Board on March 18. The SDĽ said the recall of Štefan Košovan, the SDĽ-appointed director of the state energy utility SE, represented a violation of the agreement.
The prime minister said that he would deal with the SDĽ request as soon as it had been officially presented, and that he was not used to sending messages through the media.
The SDĽ said it planned to lead discussions on the coalition agreement with all political parties that formed the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) as well as with the new Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) and the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK). The SDĽ thought it was necessary to assess the real power of each political party within the ruling coalition, according to SDĽ spokesman Ján Richter.
Richter did not exclude the possibility that the SDĽ might demand the post of prime minister, if, he said, it proved to be the strongest political party in the coalition government.
Slovaks divided over NATO membership
Over 51% of Slovaks disagree with Slovakia's entry into NATO, according to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Media Information Centre. The poll included 1,174 respondents from among supporters of parties that are currently eligible to enter parliament based on their voter-support base - a selection which effectively excluded supporters of the coalition SOP, DÚ and KDH. Entry into the Alliance was favoured by 43% of respondents, with a further 5.8% undecided.
The poll was released just before General Wesley Clark, Commander in Chief of NATO forces in Europe, paid a one-day visit to Slovakia on March 22 for a meeting with Defence Minister Pavol Kanis and Chief of Staff of the Slovak Army General Milan Cerovský to gain insight into the structure of the Slovak Army and its strategic goals. Clark said that it was important Slovakia had a strong orientation toward NATO membership.
Maverick politician Róbert Fico tops trust ratings
Smer party chairman Róbert Fico is the most trusted politician in Slovakia, according to a poll carried out by the MVK Agency between March 8-13 among 1,115 respondents.
Fico was named as the most trustworthy public figure by 29% of respondents; in second place was President Rudolf Schuster (24.5%), and in third was opposition Movement For a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Chairman Vladimír Mečiar (23.9%).
Fourth place was taken by Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda (18.1%). Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan was trusted by 12.3%, a 2.6% rise from a February MVK poll; Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) chairman Béla Bugár received 10% (up by 2.1%), and Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová received 5.5% (up by 3%).
Compiled by Daniel J. Stoll from TASR