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Coalition agreement goes to the wire

After a marathon closed-door negotiation session between the leaders of the four former opposition parties, Premier-elect Mikuláš Dzurinda emerged triumphant in the early hours of October 28. "At half past three in the morning," he said, "a new government was born."
That a coalition agreement was reached in time for the first session of the new Parliament on October 29 was something of a miracle. The four parties had spent October haggling over Ministerial posts in the new cabinet, and despite their promise that a coalition document would be signed by October 27, a basic government programme had not even been fixed one day before the deadline.
But according to the leaders of the four parties, a spirit of compromise prevailed during the final days of negotiations.

After a marathon closed-door negotiation session between the leaders of the four former opposition parties, Premier-elect Mikuláš Dzurinda emerged triumphant in the early hours of October 28. "At half past three in the morning," he said, "a new government was born."

That a coalition agreement was reached in time for the first session of the new Parliament on October 29 was something of a miracle. The four parties had spent October haggling over Ministerial posts in the new cabinet, and despite their promise that a coalition document would be signed by October 27, a basic government programme had not even been fixed one day before the deadline.

But according to the leaders of the four parties, a spirit of compromise prevailed during the final days of negotiations. Béla Bugár, leader of the Hungarian SMK party, said shortly after the coalition agreement was signed at 17:30 on October 28 that "we subordinated our ambitions to the will of citizens. Now we are going to solve rather than create problems." Pál Csáky, another Hungarian who won the position of Vice Premier for Human Rights and Minorities in the new government, said that he had a "good feeling" about the coalition, but couldn't claim to be "100% satisfied."

The document signed by the four parties - the dominant Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), the reformed communist Social Democratic Left (SDĽ), along with the smaller SMK and the leftist Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) - defines the relations between individual parties of the coalition and secures the distribution of power within the government.

In the coalition agreement the four parties commited themselves to support obligations stemming from the verdict that the International Court of Justice in The Hague issued on the hydroelectric power station at Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros. They also agreed to not to re-open either the Beneš decrees, which concern repatriation of Slovak Germans and Hungarians after WWII, or ethnic territorial autonomy and other issues that could endanger the stability of the cabinet. The agreement also guarantees that no government party will push for a bilingual education system that harms schools with Hungarian as the teaching language.

The four-party coalition agreed on one candidate for the post of Parliamentary Speaker, SDĽ chairman Jozef Migaš. Migaš was elected speaker at the inaugural session of the new Parliament on October 29, and appointed Dzurinda to form the new cabinet after the resignation of the outgoing cabinet led by Premier Vladimír Mečiar.

The distribution of seats in the new government will be as follows: 9 for the SDK, 6 for the SDĽ, 3 for the Hungarians and 2 for the SOP (see chart this page). As late as October 26, the parties had been arguing over an 8-5-3-3 formula, with the SDĽ demanding an extra seat for what party deputy Ľubomír Fogaš called the SDĽ's "intellectual treasure."

Compromise was again reached however, when the SOP accepted one seat fewer and the four parties agreed to create a new cabinet post. "The coalition agreement depends on [SOP Chairman] Rudolf Schuster's being our joint candidate for the President's post, as well as that Jozef Migaš will be supported as a candidate for the post of Parliamentary Speaker," reported Dzurinda.

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