Now that Ján Slota is off the hook for inciting hatred between Hungarians and Slovaks at a March party rally (see news briefs), the chairman of the nationalist SNS party is gearing up to face a room full of feuding party leaders who may remove him from his position.
On September 25, Slota's future as leader of the controversial opposition SNS will be debated at a party congress in Žilina. If a majority of the party's 423 delegates vote in support of a non-confidence motion called on their chairman, Slota will be forced to step down. One of two party members, SNS First Deputy Chairwoman Anna Malíková or former Defence Minister and party Deputy Chairman Ján Sitek, will likely replace him, analysts say.
Malíková, 39, has been highly critical of Slota's drunken outbursts and extremist behaviour, and has said she would like to turn the SNS into a more mainstream nationalist party. In return, she has been ridiculed by Slota as an "unsatisfied old maid who was not able to get married and give birth to Slovak boys."
Sitek, on the other hand, is in Slota's camp and would likely continue to give Slota respect and support, analysts said.
The SNS congress was originally to have taken place this spring in Nitra, but Slota delayed the meeting until this month. In doing so, he ignored the will of 59 lower-level party representatives; some observers said the switch had been calculated to give Slota a little time to clean up his act. Polls show that public support for the SNS has been waning in recent months.
In another possible attempt to influence the meeting, Slota made an eleventh-hour announcement last Monday that the caucus would be moved to Žilina, of which Slota is mayor. Slota said he moved the meeting because he had received phoned bomb threats for the Nitra meeting. But his party opponents doubted his story.
"It's just a trick. I don't know about any such phone call. If somebody wants to place a bomb, then he doesn't make phone calls one week before," Malíková said.
Though at press time Thursday the outcome of Saturday's meeting was unclear, Slovak Academy of Science political analyst Ľuboš Kubín said he thought that at least outwardly Malíková had more support among many regional party representatives. Still, that may not be sufficient to change the leadership, Kubín said.
"Exactly which regional representatives were chosen to vote, and the manner in which they were chosen, will be very important for the results of the meeting. It could deeply influence the final voting," Kubín said.
In the days before the meeting, Slota sent his last barbs out to his female rival. "I can't imagine a woman at the head of the Slovak National Party," he told a press conference September 20, "because women don't serve (as conscripts) in the Slovak army."