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Former president unhappy with rules for presidential elections

Former Slovak President Michal Kováč, who has already declared his intention to run for the post of president in direct presidential elections on May 15, said he was dissatisfied with the rules for direct presidential elections recently approved by parliament. Kováč said that some of the law's provisions may contradict the constitution, and added that were he now the president, he would have returned the law to parliament.

Kováč was highly critical of the fact that parliament had effectively reduced the time period - 21 days - guaranteed to candidates by the constitution for collecting signatures on the petitions they need to be allowed to run for office. Presidential candidates must either collect 15,000 voter signatures on a petition to be allowed to run, or must secure the support of 15 parliamentary deputies.

Speaker of Parliament Jozef Migaš announced on the day that the law on direct presidential elections took effect that the 21 day period for submitting petitions had begun simultaneously. However, candidates are not allowed to start printing and distributing petition sheets until the law comes into effect, meaning that the printing and distribution process cuts into the time avaliable for collecting voters signatures.

"Candidates nominated by political parties do not face such problems," Kováč said. The favorite in the presidential race, Košice mayor and national SOP party leader Rudolf Schuster, has the support of the government and its 93 parliamentary deputies under a coalition agreement signed in October, 1998. Kováč and other independent candidates have often been critical of the government for lending its backing to Schuster in a contest dominated by unsupported, independent candidates.

Kováč also criticised the fact candidates have only 15 days in which to campaign, explaining that this time period is not sufficient for unknown indepenmdent candidates to present their programmes to the public.

Kováč also underscored that the law limits financing of presidential campaigns but does not limit the network and assistants that are allowed to participate.He explained that candidates supported by political parties have an unfair advantage since the political apparatus and network of their backers is placed at their disposal.

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