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SOP says "toughest time" coming

Less than 100 people attended the final campaign rally of the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP), an anticlimax to the party's month-longstump-tour of the country. Under sunny autumn skies in the northern Slovak city of Žilina, SOP leader Rudolf Schuster spoke briefly to the small crowd before bolting for Bratislava. The Slovak Spectator caught up with the SOP leader as he left the stage.
The Slovak Spectator: Are you at all worried that the SDK [largest opposition party, consisting of five different member parties] will not be able to hold together over four years of cooperation with the SOP in a coalition government?
Rudolf Schuster: I think there is no other way. Without such cooperation, there couldn't be an opposition victory. The SDK must know this - without the SOP, they wouldn't have enough votes to win, and wouldn't know what to do with their victory. But now that the SOP is here, we have to create a government together, the whole opposition. I'm sure we will collectively get 60% of the vote, which means we will be able to amend the constitution, which is very important.


SOP leader Rudolf Schuster
Courtesy of SOP

Less than 100 people attended the final campaign rally of the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP), an anticlimax to the party's month-longstump-tour of the country. Under sunny autumn skies in the northern Slovak city of Žilina, SOP leader Rudolf Schuster spoke briefly to the small crowd before bolting for Bratislava. The Slovak Spectator caught up with the SOP leader as he left the stage.


The Slovak Spectator: Are you at all worried that the SDK [largest opposition party, consisting of five different member parties] will not be able to hold together over four years of cooperation with the SOP in a coalition government?

Rudolf Schuster: I think there is no other way. Without such cooperation, there couldn't be an opposition victory. The SDK must know this - without the SOP, they wouldn't have enough votes to win, and wouldn't know what to do with their victory. But now that the SOP is here, we have to create a government together, the whole opposition. I'm sure we will collectively get 60% of the vote, which means we will be able to amend the constitution, which is very important.


TSS: But the SDK's 5 member parties have never been formally dismantled. Are you worried that they will cause the eventual break-up of the SDK?

RS: I will not speak about this before [it happens] because for one thing, I am sure we have an advantage that our party is one party, and when you imagine that the SDK parties were alone, we would be the strongest opposition party.


TSS: The economy is going to be in a very tough situation for the next three or four years. Will it be difficult for the parties which form the government to agree on a common approach, and have you consciously tried to prepare people for the coming crisis?

RS: Every party has had its own campaign program, but now we will have to sit together and create a new government program, which is something else entirely. I think we will all have to focus on creating a program that addresses the needs of the [Slovak] people, not the individual parties.

And yes, at every meeting, I have been speaking about the economy, warning people that 'now is coming the most difficult time since the velvet revolution in Slovakia,' and for this reason we need a professional government, because at the moment, the people who fill government offices are political and have been changed after every election, and are not professional like in other countries.


TSS: What do you think about the behaviour of the other opposition parties during the campaign?

RS: The SDK now has billboards saying that 'only the winner can make changes.' I am laughing at them, and I said to Mr. Dzurinda just the other day, "don't forget that without the SOP you are not a winner at all. Even if you beat the HZDS, you wouldn't know what to do with your victory, because you need at least 50 or 60%.'


TSS: Do you have any ambitions for the Presidency? Would you accept nomination?

RS: I didn't come back to high politics because I wanted to be a President or Prime Minister. The most important thing for me is the life of the people in my country. Over the last few yeaRS, they have forgotten about the simple people, and worked instead to serve their own parties through privatisation. Now is the time to get back.


TSS: How would you evaluate the SOP's campaign?

RS: We tried to do all we could, which meant four meetings a day. Two smaller rallies, at one and three o'clock, and then two larger ones at five and eight o'clock. For three months we have been out in the villages and among people, and as a new party I think it was a good show. But from the beginning we have also been under a lot of pressure from the HZDS. Mečiar is afraid of all parties, but especially me, I know this, and that was the reason that STV targetted our campaign and especially me and my family. But I can say now that people have opened their eyes over the last two months, which can bring surprising results.


TSS: What happened to your son?

RS: We live together in one house, and they phoned him and told him there was a bomb, and everyone including the grandchildren had to be evacuated. They were all pretty frightened, and called the police, and what do you know, the police didn't find anything.

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