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FIRST EVER REGIONAL BALLOTS FAIL TO EXCITE VOTERS

HZDS wins regional landslide on low turnout

Former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has won the majority of seats in the country's first-ever elections to regional parliaments. However, voter turnout averaged only 26%.
The results of the December 1 vote reveal that five out of eight newly-created regins, or Higher Territorial Units (VÚCs), will be ruled by the HZDS either independently or in coalition with other parties.
The HZDS won all 45 seats in the Trenčín region, 24 out of 40 mandates in the Trnava region, and 31 out of 52 seats in the Žilina region.


The HZDS control all but three regional parliaments.
photo: Spectator archives

Former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has won the majority of seats in the country's first-ever elections to regional parliaments. However, voter turnout averaged only 26%.

The results of the December 1 vote reveal that five out of eight newly-created regins, or Higher Territorial Units (VÚCs), will be ruled by the HZDS either independently or in coalition with other parties.

The HZDS won all 45 seats in the Trenčín region, 24 out of 40 mandates in the Trnava region, and 31 out of 52 seats in the Žilina region.

In the Banská Bystrica region, where the HZDS ran in coalition with the non-parliamentary party Smer, the alliance won 22 out of 49 seats, while in the Prešov region the same alliance took 30 out of 60 seats.

In the Košice region, an alliance of the HZDS with the governmental Democratic Left Party (SDĽ) and the Civic Understanding Party (SOP) won 10 out of 57 seats, placing second after an alliance formed between Prime Ministrer Mikuláš Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and Smer (24 seats).

In the Nitra region, the SMK won 31 of 52 seats, trailed by a local HZDS-SDĽ-Smer-SOP alliance.

The right-wing alliance formed in the Bratislava region by the SDKÚ, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), the SMK, the Democratic Party (DS) and the non-parliamentary ANO won 40 out 46 seats, with the HZDS in second place with five seats.

The HZDS took 76 out of the total 401 regional mandates by itself, while alliances of which the HZDS is a member hold 115 more seats. Only one regional chairman, Ľubo Roman of the Bratislava right-wing alliance, won an absolute majority and was elected in the first round.

A runoff is to be held between the top two candidates in the seven other regions on 15 December.

Of those 14 candidates, three are from the HZDS, two from the SMK and one candidate from the opposition Slovak National Party. The rest are coalition nominees.

In the Trnava region, HZDS-SMER-SOP candidate Peter Tomeček, who in the first round collected 37.6% of the votes, will face the SMK's József Kvarda with 30% of the first round votes.

The Trenčín regional race will feature Štefan Štefanec of the HZDS (44.4% of first round votes) and Anna Záborská, supported by the SDKÚ-KDH-DS. She collected 19% of the votes in the first round.

In the Nitra region, Milan Belica, the candidate of the HZDS-SDL-SOP (40.87%), will compete in a close race with the SMK's Miklós Fehér (35.76%).

The Žilina regional race in the second round will feature the Slovak National Party's national leader Anna Malíková (14.7%) and the HZDS' Jozef Tarčák (32.12%).

The Košice race will feature the candidate of the HZDS-SDL-SOP Alojz Engliš (23.84%) against Rudolf Bauer (17.12%), supported by the KDH-DS.

In the Banská Bystrica race for the regional chair, Milan Marčok (30.84%) backed by the HZDS-SMER will compete with Jozef Mikuš (24.30%) backed by the SDKÚ-KDH-DS-ANO.

The Prešov regional race will feature Juraj Kopčák (34.40%), running for the SDKÚ-KDH, and Peter Chudík (27.73%) backed by the HZDS-SMER.

Those candidates who collected the most votes in the first round of the regional elections have proceeded to the second round.

Bratislava was the only region to elect a chairman in the first round. Ľubo Roman, the candidate of a coalition of mostly national government parties (SDKÚ-KDH-SMK-DS-ANO) won a clear majority over HZDS-SMER candidate Milan Čič.

President Rudolf Schuster said he was disappointed by the low turnout to the polls, but added he expected more interest in next year's general elections.

He claimed that a low-key election campaign was directly linked to low turnout in the elections, as well as to the relatively higher number of invalid ballots.

Čič, a former Czechoslovak Prime Minister and Slovak Constitutional Court Chief Justice, said the regional elections law would have to be changed to allow candidates to run campaign ads on electronic media. This, he said, would improve the public's awareness of the event.

Pavol Hrušovský, the chairman of the ruling coalition KDH, agreed the low turnout could be partly explained by the ban on political advertising on electronic media. But he said the long delay in passing public administration reform legislation, of which regional elections were a part, also had a bearing on the turnout.

The new VÚCs have been given more then 300 areas of responsibilities in areas such as education, heath and social services. However, the extent of the VÚCs' financial powers have yet to be set.

See page 2 for more regional election coverage.

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