SNS party delegates, gathered to remove leader Ján Slota from his post in Žilina on September 25, vote to continue the party's congress in Nitra on October 2 after the ousted Slota switched off the lights.
At a full-day party congress September 25, a majority of the 403 SNS regional delegates voted to oust controversial Ján Slota from the post of chairman he has held since 1994. Slota, however, refused to recognise the vote. Instead, he shut off the lights at the meeting and declared the recall vote invalid.
Though she was not officially elected in the ensuing confusion, First Vice-Chairwoman Anna Malíková then stepped forward as the party's new head. Slota has refused to recognise her leadership, and Malíková has refused to recognise his.
"The meeting's decision was not a regular one," Slota said at a press conference September 27. "Miss Malíková's skin tone is pale because she hates me so much," he added.
The battle is the latest in a continuing fight for leadership within the SNS party. Over the past year, popular support for the SNS has dropped dramatically, a fact many analysts pin on Slota's extremist tendencies. Slota, 45, made headlines this year for suggesting Slovakia roll her tanks into Hungary, for accusing Hungarian leaders of wanting to take over the government, and for urinating off a balcony one drunken afternoon. Critics say the party must get rid of him to return to the political mainstream.
At the Žilina congress September 25, Slota switched off the microphones and lights after it became clear that 237 delegates supported his dismissal. At his press conference two days later, Slota said that he would step down if demanded by a decision of party's Central Control and Revision Commission. However, when the Commission announced Tuesday that the recall vote was valid, Slota did not keep his promise and instead accused the committee of not consulting with lawyers.
Meanwhile, Malíková held her own news conference Monday right after Slota left the room.
The reign of Slota is over, she said. "Slota was recalled last Saturday and he illegally and violently broke up the meeting," she added.
The question of SNS leadership may be finalised October 2, when another party congress in Nitra is expected to officially raise Malíková to the party's top chair. But nothing is certain.
Malíková said she has the support of at least nine of the 14 SNS members of Parliament. Judging from the September 25 vote, she also has the support of most regional SNS structures. But the threat of not enough delegates coming to the meeting may carry some weight.
Jaroslav Honc, the Prešov SNS leader, said that he "won't recommend that any SNS member attend the (upcoming) Nitra congress."
Malíková also said she would like to see the party become a more standard nationalist party. For Malíková-supporter and SNS vice-chairman Viliam Oberhauser, that means eventually becoming a member of the Slovak ruling coalition.
"We want to be in the next Slovak government. With Slota it definitely wouldn't be possible," he said.
But some analysts say the SNS has little chance at gaining a wider base of support, no matter what the results are of the current leadership battle. Chief of Slovak Institute for Public Issues (IVO) Grigorij Mesežnikov, for example, estimates that SNS support will fall at least in the short term.
Losing the chairmanship will also bode poorly for Slota's political star, Mesežnikov added.
"Ján Slota became a strong man of northern Slovakia and Mayor of Žilina thanks to his being chairman of the SNS. Leaving the chairman's seat could mean for him the gradual loss of other positions," he said.
As if to confirm Mesež-nikov's prediction, parliament voted September 30 to remove Slota from his post as chairman of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee for the Slovak Intelligence Service.