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SDK leader will not play 'SNS card'

On the last full day of campaigning, The Slovak Spectator sat down to talk politics with Mikuláš Dzurinda, leader of the largest opposition party, the SDK. With 23% support going into elections on September 25, the SDK trailed the ruling HZDS party of Premier Vladimír Mečiar by less than 5%, and counted on forming the next government in coalition possibly with the Hungarian party, the centre-left SOP party and the reformed communist SDĽ party. Together, these four parties registered 58% support before the ballot.
But as a coalition of five member parties, including a conservative, a liberal, a socialist and a green party, the SDK's political achilles heel has always been its inherent instability as a unit.


SDK leader Mikuláš Dzurinda
Courtesy of SDK

On the last full day of campaigning, The Slovak Spectator sat down to talk politics with Mikuláš Dzurinda, leader of the largest opposition party, the SDK. With 23% support going into elections on September 25, the SDK trailed the ruling HZDS party of Premier Vladimír Mečiar by less than 5%, and counted on forming the next government in coalition possibly with the Hungarian party, the centre-left SOP party and the reformed communist SDĽ party. Together, these four parties registered 58% support before the ballot.

But as a coalition of five member parties, including a conservative, a liberal, a socialist and a green party, the SDK's political achilles heel has always been its inherent instability as a unit.


The Slovak Spectator: Several other opposition parties are worried about the SDK's ability to remain together over four years, given the personal ambitions of politicians from former SDK member parties and the fact that their political programs do not naturally fit together. How would you reassure your potential coalition partners?

Mikuláš Dzurinda: First, I want to say what I can guarantee, which is that the SDK, as a political party, will continue. The question is how the SDK, as well as the five parties that create the SDK, will develop in the future. There are many possibilities, but I would like to mention one in particular. It is an amendment allowing political parties to enter free liberal groups of a federal or con-federal character, where there would be one common authority and the parties would have had their subjectivity specified in mutual agreement. That, however, is only one possibility.


TSS: The Slovak National Party has said that it would consider working with opposition parties in a coalition government. You have already ruled out that possibility, but if you found yourself with 70 seats in Parliament and the SNS had six [a Parliamentary majority is 75 seats], would you accept them as partners?

MD: The SNS 'card' is one I should leave up my sleeve, but I can't do it. SDK politics has to have limits, principles, and a firm foundation. The SNS has totally compromised itself. Its carries a large weight of responsibility for what has been done in Slovakia, so there's no use talking any more about [political cooperation].


TSS: What are your feelings about the post-electoral scene? Do you believe that other opposition parties are strong enough to resist the appeals of the HZDS to join them in government?

MD: Yes, I do. Because the political reality is that theHZDS and Vladimír Mečiar have compromised themselves. You can say whatever you want about [SOP leader Rudolf] Schuster, but he is a European, that's beyond doubt. He knows very well that Slovakia belongs to Europe and not somewhere between Belorussia and Russia. The [reformed communist] SDĽ is made up of people with close ties to the Socialist International and to European structures...I'm convinced that reasonable arguments will influence the final decisions of the SDĽ and SOP.


TSS: If you had as much money as the HZDS has access to, would you also have recruited western stars like Claudia Schiffer or Gerard Depardieu? How is your style of campaigning different from that of the HZDS?

MD: When I get to thinking about what I have done since July, the difference is absolutely clear. I put on jersey and sat on a bike. I rode almost a thousand kilometres, visited about 200 towns and villages. I had to swerve frequently, in order to avoid being hit by eggs or tomatoes. I had to listen to unbelievable cursing. But I was there, among the people. Look at Mečiar - [campaigning] exclusively in sports halls and stadiums, where security guards frisk you four times, lighting torches, setting off fireworks - that's a completely different thing. Mečiar hides himself from the people, but I will never forget the people. [Slovak NHL hockey legend] Peter Šťastný came [to help the SDK campaign] without asking for money, and I would also never think of offering him any cash. If I had the money Mečiar has, I would never use it to invite foreign show-business stars.


TSS: People said about the 1994 elections that the opposition parties were defeated by Mečiar mostly because he is such a good speaker, that he speaks to the people's hearts in simple language. The opposition parties, on the other hand, used complicated language. Did you learn anything from that experience?

MD: Yes, I did, and I have never denied it. We should learn from everybody...I have to confess that since my first taste of high politics I was sure that the art of politics is to interpret things to people in a way they understand. It's maybe the only quality of Mečiar's I was impressed by. It's probably a gift he got from heaven.


TSS: If, during the elections, there is any kind of manipulation of the results, has the SDK prepared any kind of response?

MD: Sure. We have found the flaws in the mechanisms to guarantee election results, and we have tried to get rid of them, but the final solution, to me, lies with the people. If the elections are irregular, we have to go to the streets. I'm convinced that people are prepared for this alternative. A good proof of that was the case of TV Markíza, when people, also in other cities, came spontaneously to the squares and nobody had to organize them. Today, Slovaks have already comprehended that if they enjoy no freedom, their path leads only to hell, and it's good that they know it.

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