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SDK deputies debate return to three party bloc

Amid calls by their party chairman to re-establish a right-wing government coalition, eight members of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) have dropped their membership in the government's leading party, the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), in an apparent bid to strengthen the political right-wing before the next parliamentary elections.
The recent moves, KDH members said, would not immediately lead to the re-establishment of the 'Blue Coalition,' which was active in 1996 and 1997 and comprised three parties - the KDH, the Democratic Party (DS) and the Democratic Union (DU). However, they predicted that the Blue Coalition would likely be resurrected in time for the 2002 parliamentary elections.


KDH members Ján Čarnogurský (left), Pavol Hrušovský (centre) and Inerior Minister Ladislav Pittner.
photo: Vladimír Hák-Profit

Amid calls by their party chairman to re-establish a right-wing government coalition, eight members of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) have dropped their membership in the government's leading party, the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), in an apparent bid to strengthen the political right-wing before the next parliamentary elections.

The recent moves, KDH members said, would not immediately lead to the re-establishment of the 'Blue Coalition,' which was active in 1996 and 1997 and comprised three parties - the KDH, the Democratic Party (DS) and the Democratic Union (DU). However, they predicted that the Blue Coalition would likely be resurrected in time for the 2002 parliamentary elections.

"The SDK should remain in its current form until the end of this election period," said Vladimír Palko, a former SDK deputy who returned to his KDH mother party in January. "However, looking at the next elections, it looks like the SDK won't run as a coalition of five parties."

Though the coming election might seem far away, Ľuboš Kubín, a political scientist with the Slovak Academy of Science, agreed that now was the time to move if a right-wing coalition wants to succeed.

"If this kind of [Blue] coalition is to be a strong political bloc in 2002 elections, it has to start taking the important steps right now, and not at a time close to the next elections," he said. If the Blue Coalition 'wakes up' right before the elections, its chances will not be good, he added.

The idea of restoring of the Blue Coalition was voiced by the chairman of the KDH, Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský, at a March 21 press conference. "A return to a coalition of the original parties [of the SDK] would be the best solution for the KDH," he said.

A KDH freed from the SDK, Palko explained, would have three basic options in the next election. "Either the KDH will run on its own, or it'll create a coalition with its closest partner, the DS, or the DU will join the two parties, which would in fact mean the return of the Blue Coalition," he said.

Calls for a coalition

The debate over the Blue Coalition has revived a simmering dispute over the status of the SDK in general. The SDK coalition, which originally sheltered five distinct parties, was forced to consolidate into a party in May 1998 because of a law passed under the government of former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar. The effect of the law was to prevent coalitions from running in the elections, and as a result, the member parties of the SDK decided to reconfigure the SDK as a party. Deputies of the forming parties gave up their mother party memberships and joined the SDK

Following its electoral victory last year, however, the SDK member groupings began questioning the need to remain united now that the need for unity had passed.

The idea of transforming the SDK back into a true coalition was recently brought to a head by a March 18 Constitutional Court decision which ruled that the election law amendment had not been in accordance with the constitution. The ruling, in some ways, made SDK members question their decision to abandon their mother parties.

According to Palko and Čarnogurský, the first step towards the re-estabishment of the Blue Coalition would be to change the status of the SDK back to that of a coalition of five parties - the three right-wing members along with the leftist Greens (SZS) and Social Democrats (SDSS).

The other side - SDK as a party

Not all members of parliament affiliated with the KDH feel that a return to an SDK coalition would be wise. Ivan Šimko, himself a former KDH member and now an SDK deputy, doesn't see an SDK coalition as an option. "I cannot imagine a return [to a coalition]," he said. He added that the idea of breaking up the SDK had been poorly considered, and that "it would be cutting the throat of the current government."

Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, a former KDH vice chairman and now the chairman of the SDK, also doesn't want the status of the SDK to change. In fact, he would like to strengthen the independence of the SDK, making it into a full political party open to all members of the electorate, not just a nominal umbrella over the five parties.

But the right-wing members of the ruling coalition outnumber the Dzurinda-Šimko faction, and are firmly against Dzurinda's idea of extending membership in the SDK, of turning it into a normally functioning party. Ján Langoš, chairman of the DS, said "I think that the idea of the SDK as an individual party is a piece of political nonsense. It would be a political adventure for which there's no room in Slovakia right now at all."

Ján Budaj, an SDK deputy from the DU, agreed that the SDK's political future lay primarily with its right wing faction. "Co-operation between the KDH, DU and DS will certainly play an important role in the future," he said, but added that these parties would be wise to maintain their co-operation with the left-wing political spectrum. "Otherwise, Slovakia would not end up with a standard brand of politics," said Budaj.

The KDH has always been in the forefront of agitation for a return to the original right-wing coalition, and to date, eight of its members have left the SDK and returned to their mother party. On March 18, the SDK lost four members - Pavol Hrušovský, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Anna Záborská, Alojz Rakús and Rudolf Bauer. They followed four KDH colleagues who had left the SDK between January and March. Eight additional KDH members remain with the SDK.

At its founding in 1996, the Blue Coalition's aim was finding a common path for the three right-wing parties in parliament. In May 1997, after the marred NATO referendum, the coalition expanded by attaching two left-wingers - the SDSS and SZS. This grouping later gave birth to the SDK in May 1998.

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