HZDS stalwarts Tibor Cabaj (up) and Augustín Marián Húska.
Peter Baco, a former Agriculture Minister in the1994-1998 Mečiar government, said that he was convinced Mečiar would still be leading the HZDS even after its crucial April national council. "I don't know any member of the movement who doubts this," Baco said on January 25.
Augustín Marián Húska, vice chaiman of the HZDS, agreed that speculations of Mečiar's departure were unfounded. "We don't have the right to ask the chairman [Mečiar] whether he is leaving or not. We are convinced that as the founder of the movement he has done everything to help it during the time that it has been in opposition," Húska said.
The statements of both Baco and Huska, however, were somewhat at odds with what they told independent Rádio Twist on January 21. Húska had said then that Mečiar would not be the head of a HZDS shadow cabinet to be elected at a January 30 party council in Nové Mesto nad Váhom.
Tibor Cabaj, head of the HZDS Parliamentary Deputies' Club, said for Twist that Mečiar had not yet decided whether he would remain at the head of the HZDS.
Baco went even further, saying that Mečiar was suffering from "certain physical and mental problems" which might cause the HZDS leader to leave politics.
At the January 25 press conference, Baco claimed his words had been taken out of context by journalists. "Everyone knows that we work very closely together and that we have always stood together in tough situations. Our relations are good, and we trust each other," said the beleaguered Baco.
Two days later, the Práca daily paper published a report saying that Mečiar wanted to banish the more hard-line members of the HZDS - deputies such as Dušan Slobodník, Roman Hofbauer and Húska himself - from the movement, along with those deputies who were heavily involved in privatisation. HZDS spokesman Marián Kardoš dismissed such claims as "unofficial, irrelevant and untrue."