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More stars arrive to plug Mečiar

With election day drawing ever closer, there was no let-up in the stream of international celebrities coming from western Europe to Slovakia to help Premier Vladimír Mečiar's HZDS party carry the vote. The latter half of the election campaign saw the arrival of French film stars Gérard Depardieu and Claude Brasseu, as well as Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, all of whom were scourged by domestic and international media for meddling in Slovakia's domestic affairs.
"These aging stars are being paid millions [of francs] for their appearances in Slovakia, where the candidate political parties can spend maximum 12 million Sk [$350,000] on their campaigns," wrote the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on September 19.


Unwanted. French film star Gerard Depardieu (left) waves to crowds with Premier Vladimír Mečiar.
TASR

With election day drawing ever closer, there was no let-up in the stream of international celebrities coming from western Europe to Slovakia to help Premier Vladimír Mečiar's HZDS party carry the vote. The latter half of the election campaign saw the arrival of French film stars Gérard Depardieu and Claude Brasseu, as well as Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, all of whom were scourged by domestic and international media for meddling in Slovakia's domestic affairs.

"These aging stars are being paid millions [of francs] for their appearances in Slovakia, where the candidate political parties can spend maximum 12 million Sk [$350,000] on their campaigns," wrote the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on September 19.

Depardieu, Cardinale and Brasseu followed in the steps of German supermodel Claudia Schiffer and Paul Belmondo, son of a French film-star, who had showed up alongside Mečiar and his cabinet at openings of stretches of new Slovak motorways.

Otto Graf Lambsdorff, honorary chairman of the German government's Free Democratic Party, ripped Schiffer for expressing "solidarity with a political regime that still has problems coming to terms with a pluralistic and constitutionally-based social system", as well as for supporting an "autocratic dictator" who obstructs Slovakia's democratic process.

Slovak public figures got in on the fun as well, as Mikuláš Dzurinda, leader of the opposition SDK party, lashed out at Mečiar and his foreign visitors. "70% of Slovaks don't even know who Depardieu or Cardinale are," he said. "This is just cash being thrown into the Danube." Dzurinda reported that Peter Štastny, a Slovak hockey legend, is supporting the SDK for free.

"I am very glad that I could accept the invitation of Mr. Vladimír and come among you," Depardieu told Mečiar supporters at a HZDS rally in Košice on September 20. The two men appeared together in front of approximately eight thousand people at a football stadium, where according to the state news agency TASR, "the French guest did not hide his joy and emotion at the ovation given to him and the premier by a crowd of around 20,000 participants." The stadium has a capacity of 12,500.

"Despite our meeting for the first time today, I had the impression that we had known each other for a very long time," Depardieu said. "He calls me 'Gérard', and I call him 'Mr. Vladimír,' because I can't pronounce his last name." Depardieu added that he had "spent a very nice Sunday with nice people. I drank good wine and saw the joys of life."

Cardinale showed up on Mečiar's arm on September 19, on a live morning TV show called "Sobotník" on government-run STV. When asked about politics, she said "I don't want to be a politician, even though I actually do partake in politics - I choose the films [I want to star in] and some offers I reject. This way I'm being political. Each of us plays some role," Cardinale revealed.

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