PARLIAMENT failed to elect an ombudsman due to what several politicians called a communication crisis among the parties of the ruling coalition.
The voting procedure called for the winner to score a simple majority of votes from the members of parliament (MPs) present in the 150-seat chamber, meaning 67 ballots on that February 19. Ruling coalition MPs still command a majority of over 80 seats.
But their failure to agree on a common candidate reflected the disunity which reigns in government ranks, and was "a true picture of the coalition", said László Nagy, head of the human rights parliamentary committee and an MP for the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK).
"I expect a massive public reaction to this and I am very sorry that several high quality candidates were wasted in this vote," Nagy said.
Five candidates had originally been in the running for the post of ombudsman, or public human rights defender. Banská Bystrica lawyer Ján Hrubala withdrew his candidacy one hour before the vote and advised his supporters to support Banská Bystrica court chief justice Jana Dubovcová. However, she did not get through the first round.
Among the strongest remaining candidates, labour unions vice-president Igor Lenský stood little chance of winning, according to observers, because of his past as a communist prosecutor. The SMK nominated former member Edit Bauer, the Deputy Labour Minister.
The fifth candidate was parliamentary legislative department employee Dušan Nikodým, nominated by a variety of MPs.
Bauer and Nikodým emerged strongest from the first round. But in the second Nikodým scored 50 votes, splitting support with Bauer, who took 48.
By withdrawing his candidacy Hrubala stays eligible for the second round of elections, the date of which has not been set. "I will consider running again," he told The Slovak Spectator.
However, Oľga Keltošová, an MP with the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, said that an ombudsman might not be chosen until after the September elections.
"The cooperation agreement signed by the ruling coalition parties expires at the end of March, and look at how unwilling the coalition parties are to communicate with each other already," Keltošová said.