Ivan Mjartan used his candidacy in Slovakia's May Presidential race to raise awareness of his new party.
The new party, called the Party of the Democratic Center (SDS), will meet for the first time on September 25 or October 2. Who else besides Mjartan will attend the meeting is as yet unclear - while a few private citizens, such as a doctor and a businessman, have recently announced that they will join the party, no politicians or high-profile figures have come forward.
Political analysts give the new party, which its founder described as "a little left of centre," a slim chance of making a big splash on the Slovak political scene. However, that has not yet deterred Mjartan, who made headlines recently by denying that Vlastimil Vicen, a former HZDS deputy with the Mečiar government, was a member of his party.
"I invited Vlastimil to my birthday party, and he maybe got the impression that I wanted to co-operate with him," Mjartan said.
In a September 7 interview with The Slovak Spectator, Mjartan described his party as a "pragmatic centre" party which wants to co-operate will all groups. "Through right-wing steps, like the very fast privatisation of the banking sector, we want to achieve left-wing results, including lower unemployment and higher living standards," he said. "Pragmatism without ideological limits is the political mainstream in modern Europe," he added.
Though he won't comment right now on his party's membership list, Mjartan did say that he would not draft people from any current parliamentary party, and would instead gather political support by other means. "There are a certain number of MP's who would, maybe, establish a parliamentary club of independent MP's sympathising with the principles of the SDS," Mjartan said.
Funding for the party is currently coming from a trio of Slovak businesses which have "foreign support," Mjartan said. He said the companies might make themselves public after the upcoming party congress.
Mjartan is a former member of the HZDS who became well known under the Mečiar government in 1992 for heading the news department at the state-run Slovak Radio. At the end of that year, he was sent to Prague as Slovak ambassador, where he remained for more than five years.
Recalled shortly before the September 1998 elections, the handsome Mjartan was asked by the HZDS leadership to drum up support among young Slovak voters. After the election, he left the party, saying he saw little future for himself inside it.
"I worked in the HZDS not more than nine months," he said, referring to the time directly before and after his diplomatic posting. "I wouldn't call myself an active member of the HZDS," he said.
Mjartan began talking about forming his own party shortly after leaving the HZDS, and promoted the idea during his candidacy in the May 1999 presidential election, in which he took 3.6% of the vote. Since that time, a number of high-profile figures, including former National Bank of Slovakia Governor Vladimír Masar, were rumoured to have joined the party, but all have since denied it.
Some analysts say that among the public, Mjartan stands his best chance with voters who know little about his past and who like his pledge to stabilise the current political scene by taking a middle road. The same tactics were employed by current President Rudolf Schuster, who in February 1998 founded the centrist Party of Civic Reconciliation (SOP). But with the path of political compromise already occupied by the SOP, it is not clear how the SDS will gain voter support, said Luboš Kubín, a political scientist with the Slovak Academy of Sciences.
"People are already more sensitive about third-way parties," Kubín said, adding that it is also a disadvantage that "Mjartan doesn't have strong media support like the SOP of Rudolf Schuster had."
Because Mjartan refuses to draft members from parliamentary parties, and because it appears unlikely that early elections will occur in Slovakia, Kubín said he didn't think the SDS would become a political force anytime soon.