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And then there were ten: Presidential candidate profiles

Ten candidates will vie for the presidential palace in Slovakia's first direct presidential election May 15. The following profiles are arranged in descending order of popularity as measured by a Názory agnecy poll conducted from April 23-29.
Rudolf Schuster Leading presidential candidate Schuster, 65, won his position as the candidate of the ruling government coalition in a post-1998 election deal in which he pledged his self-founded party, The Party of Civic Reconciliation (SOP), to coalition support. Schuster sees his mission and that of his party as one of bridging the political gap between the current government and HZDS and SNS opposition. Schuster was a member of the Communist Party from 1964, and, after becoming a top official in 1986, went on to head the Communist Slovak parliament shortly before the revolution. From 1990 to 1992, he was Czechoslovak Ambassador to Canada, and in 1994 he returned to a post he held during communism by being elected the mayor of the eastern city of Košice.

Ten candidates will vie for the presidential palace in Slovakia's first direct presidential election May 15. The following profiles are arranged in descending order of popularity as measured by a Názory agnecy poll conducted from April 23-29.


Rudolf Schuster
photo: TASR

Rudolf Schuster

Leading presidential candidate Schuster, 65, won his position as the candidate of the ruling government coalition in a post-1998 election deal in which he pledged his self-founded party, The Party of Civic Reconciliation (SOP), to coalition support. Schuster sees his mission and that of his party as one of bridging the political gap between the current government and HZDS and SNS opposition. Schuster was a member of the Communist Party from 1964, and, after becoming a top official in 1986, went on to head the Communist Slovak parliament shortly before the revolution. From 1990 to 1992, he was Czechoslovak Ambassador to Canada, and in 1994 he returned to a post he held during communism by being elected the mayor of the eastern city of Košice.

Some conservative deputies for the ruling SDK party, do not support Schuster's candidacy due to his active communist past. But he told The Slovak Spectator he would be "a non-partisan president for everyone, who is willing to communicate, and help everybody, including the people at the very bottom."



Vladimír Mečiar
photo:Courtesy of SOP

Vladimír Mečiar

Without a doubt, controversial HZDS chief Mečiar, 56, has been the leading political figure of Slovakia's post-communist history. His political star rose shortly after 1989, when he was named Interior Minister in the Czechoslovak Federal Parliament in 1990 and then Slovak parliament Prime Minister. Although he and his government were dismissed with a vote of confidence in 1991, he was returned to office again in 1992 when he forcefully championed the cause of a separate Slovak state. Mečiar also founded the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) with Michal Kováč in 1991. After another dismissal in early 1994, Mečiar returned in the same year to be re-elected as the head of the newly-independent Slovakia. Though heralded as the father of modern Slovakia by some, he was criticized by his political opponents in Slovakia and world-wide political figures for dragging Slovakia from pro-European democratic development to international isolation under autocratic rule. Despite victory in 1998 elections, Mečiar's HZDS was unable to form the government and thus became the largest opposition party. Recently, several Mečiar's allies have been charged with numerous breaches of the law, ranging from corruption and fraud to kidnapping of the son of the country's former President Michal Kováč.



Magda Vášáryová
photo:

Magda Vášáryová

When Vášáryová, 51, graduated from the Sociology Faculty at Comenius University in Bratislava in 1971, she was already famous as an actress of film and stage. In 1965, she starred in Markéta Lazarová, František Vláčil's historical portrait of the medieval era of religious wars in the Czech Republic, which many critics consider the best Czech film ever made. From 1970 to 1989, she was a member of several Bratislava-based theatres and starred in more than 50 feature and 80 television films. In 1990, she was appointed Czechoslovak Ambassador to Austria and after her return from office in 1993, she founded an independent think tank, the Slovak Association for Foreign Policy. Vášáryová speaks seven foreign languages and often gives lectures at Slovak and foreign universities and political institutions. She is positioning herself as a break from the past, a youth and pro-Western independent candidate whose status as a woman would send a positive signal to the world.



Ján Slota
photo:Courtesy of SOP

Ján Slota

In 1977, Slovak National Party (SNS) chief Slota, 45, graduated from Technical University in Košice. He worked as a mining engineer and technical director in several construction and mining companies. After 1989, he entered politics as a member of the far--right SNS. From 1990 to 1992 he was an SNS deputy in the federal parliament of the former Czechoslovakia, and after the split of Czech and Slovak Republics in 1993, he became a member of the Slovak parliament. Known for his aggressive anti-Hungarian diatribes and highly nationalistic political stance, he has been a chairman of the SNS party since 1994. Slota has also been the mayor of the northern Slovak city of Žilina since 1990 and is married with three children.



Michal Kováč
photo: Courtesy of HZDS

Michal Kováč

From 1993 to 1998, Kováč, 69, was the first president of the independent Slovakia after the split of Czech and Slovak Republics on January 1, 1993. Although he was a nominee for and a member of the then-ruling HZDS party of Vladimír Mečiar, once president Kováč earned Western praise for sharply criticising Mečiar's undemocratic moves. The HZDS countered by attempting to vote him out of the presidential post in the fall of 1995 and cancelling his party membership. Kováč stayed in office until the end of his term in March 1998.

Before 1989, Kováč worked as an economist for the Czechoslovak State Bank and Entrepreneur Bank. In 1990, he was a parliamentary deputy for the Public Against Violence movement, and he served as the Finance Minister until 1991. He helped Mečiar to co-found the Movement For a Democratic Slovakia and in 1992 served as the chairman of the federal Czechoslovak parliament.



Juraj Švec
photo: Courtesy of SOP

Juraj Švec

Intellectual Švec, 61, graduated from the Medical Faculty at Comenius University in Bratislava. He has since worked as a professor at the faculty and as Director of Experimental Oncology Center of the Slovak Academy of Science. From 1991-1996, Švec was a Chancellor of the Comenius University. Švec represents Slovakia in the Council of Europe in areas of education and human rights and is a proponent of the country's accession into the EU and is a strong proponent of a clear western orientation for Slovakia. He was awarded the Gold Medal of Pope John Paul II, as well as many other decorations for his contributions to oncological research and the development of the educational system in Slovakia. Švec is currently a parliamentary deputy for the Democratic Union faction of the ruling SDK party. He is married with two children.



Ivan Mjartan
foto:Slavomír Danko

Ivan Mjartan

From 1982 to 1992, Mjartan, 40, worked for state-run Slovak Radio as a reporter and editor. Mjartan was one of the ideology leaders in forming the political programme of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) before the 1992 national elections. After the 1992 elections, he became a state secretary for culture and media policy at the Culture Ministry. From 1993 to 1998, he served as Slovak Ambassador to the Czech Republic. Before 1998 elections, Mjartan, who is known for his good looks, left the Ambassador's post to become a HZDS campaign co-ordinator. He left the Movement shortly after the elections. In the beginning of 1999, Mjartan announced his intent to form a new political party of center-leftist orientation, which he will reveal more about after the election.



Boris Zala
photo: TASR

Boris Zala

After graduating from the Faculty of Philosophy of Comenius University in 1979, Zala, 44, worked as a social scientist at the Philosophy and Sociology Center of the Slovak Academy of Science. Due to his reluctance to become a Communist Party member, Zala was dismissed from his position and worked as a labourer. He later returned to sociology and since 1990 has taught at Comenius University as an associate professor.

From 1990 to 1992, Zala presided over the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia (SDSS). In March 1992, he passed his chairmanship over to Alexander Dubček. Zala was an SDSS deputy in the Slovak parliament of the former Czechoslovakia, and continued in the position for Slovakia after the Velvet Divorce in 1993. Zala is now mainly active in the NGO sector.



Ján Demikát
photo: Courtesy of SOP

Ján Demikát

Demikát, 48, was nominated as the presidential candidate for a coalition of three minor political parties - the Slovak National Alternative, the United Party of Workers and the Party of National Understanding. He is a graduate of the Law Faculty at Charles University in Prague who, in the communist past, worked as an officer of the Czechoslovak secret police service (ŠtB). He was also active in the top bodies of the Communist Party. After 1989, Demikát became a businessman.



Juraj Lazarčik
foto: Courtesy of HZDS

Juraj Lazarčík

Since graduating from the Agriculture College in the southern Slovak city of Nitra in 1972, Lazarčík, 50, has worked as a lecturer at the college in the areas of economics and the food industry. He became a member of the Communist Party in 1969 and in 1994 he was elected as chairman of the party's regional office in Nitra. Lazarčík was nominated for the presidency by the non-parliamentary Communist Party, supported by a petition with 30,000 citizens' signatures.

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