NEWS BRIEFS

HZDS approves transformation to People's Party

The political board of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) approved plans on October 26 to transform the party into a standard political party with a strong social program.

HZDS spokesperson Igor Zvach said that the HZDS national board still has to approve the transformation concept. The plan has received mixed responses from party members, as high-ranking HZDS officials do not appear to have a united vision for the new party.

HZDS chairman Vladimír Mečiar said that the party should become a classic party of the people, while his colleagues Vojtech Tkač and Olga Keltošová suggested that a political shift towards liberalism was also possible. One HZDS minority faction is pushing for a conservative-national orientation, while the vast majority of the party is expected to remain around the centre.

The HZDS has been talking of transforming its identity and trying to find international partners since its establishment in 1991. The party has been attempting to gain entrance into the right-wing European Democratic Group (EDG) at the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.

Keltošová recently confirmed that such HZDS ambitions have continued apace, adding that the EDG may offer the HZDS membership after a special party congress that would officially turn the HZDS into a party.

In a recent interview with the Národná Obroda daily paper, Mečiar also said that membership in an international group such as the EDG is inevitable and will occur soon.

Last year, however, the HZDS was denied membership to the conservative EDG. Although some HZDS members gained individual EDG memberships, David Atkinson, the British chairman of the EDG, warned in February, 1999 that the presence of individual HZDS members did not indicate EDG membership for the HZDS as a whole.

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