As the presidential campaign drew to an end, a great furore was raised over the decision of former president Michal Kováč to give up his candidacy "in favour of the pro-coalition candidate", as he put it during a May 12 discussion on the state run Slovak Television station.
Kováč explained that his intentions were to unite voters behind a candidate strong enough to ensure that his one-time ally and long-time foe Vladimír Mečiar would have no chance of winning the May 15 elections.
"I'm convinced that this is a step which will help prevent [Mečiar's possible electorate victory] and that in no case will the post-election development of Slovakia be endangered." he said.
Kováč said that while former actress and diplomat Magda Vášáryová would represent the same values as Schuster if elected, he did not give her his support because she trailed behind Mečiar in the polls. Vášáryová, for her part, accused Kováč of swinging a secret deal with Schuster, but added that she would still try to sway a portion of his voters to her side.
"I think that Mr. Schuster knew about [Kováč's plan to withdraw his candidacy], there must have been some negotiations going on," she said. "Certainly this wasn't an easy decision for him to make, but it has released a certain potential of votes, which could help me defeat Vladimír Mečiar in the first round."
Kováč said that he would be happy if the first round of the ballot resulted in a majority winner, giving the country its first president since he left office in March, 1998. "But, I don't consider that to be realistic," he said. "However, I wish to see Mr. Schuster defeat Mečiar in the second round."
Despite the mixed interpretations concerning his withdrawal, ruling coalition politicians said they appreciated Kováč's decision.
"I think that he realised that the power is in the unity of the coalition and he placed his [presidential] experience above his personal interests," said Ferdinand Petrák, deputy for Schuster's SOP party.
17. May 1999 at 0:00 | Ivan Remiáš