HZDS woos showbiz stars

Top fashion model Claudia Schiffer and the son of a popular French film star, Paul Belmondo, stopped off in Slovakia in mid-September to help Premier Vladimír Mečiar open two new stretches of the country's motorway network. The ribbon cuttings drew squeals of outrage from the political opposition, who said the Premier was using the reflected glory of high-priced stars to promote his own ruling party.
On September 10, accompanied by Mečiar and other members of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Schiffer cut the satin tape to open a part of the D1 motorway from Horná Streda to Nové Mesto nad Váhom in western Slovakia. The official act was given saturation coverage on the prime time state STV television news broadcast the same evening.


What a lark. Slovak Premier Vladimír Mečiar gives supermodel Claudia Schiffer a boost.
TASR

Top fashion model Claudia Schiffer and the son of a popular French film star, Paul Belmondo, stopped off in Slovakia in mid-September to help Premier Vladimír Mečiar open two new stretches of the country's motorway network. The ribbon cuttings drew squeals of outrage from the political opposition, who said the Premier was using the reflected glory of high-priced stars to promote his own ruling party.

On September 10, accompanied by Mečiar and other members of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Schiffer cut the satin tape to open a part of the D1 motorway from Horná Streda to Nové Mesto nad Váhom in western Slovakia. The official act was given saturation coverage on the prime time state STV television news broadcast the same evening.

Schiffer, one of the world's best paid models, confessed that Slovakia reminded her of her native Germany, and said that she had felt at home during her visit. "During the trip I saw some beautiful castles on mountains, and I have heard that there are some really nice places for tourism here," she said.

But the Slovak opposition slammed the German supermodel's appearance alongside Mečiar, and her participation in the HZDS election campaign. "Maybe these stars themselves should check out first who is inviting them and for what purpose before they come," Martin Lengyel, spokesman for the leading opposition SDK party told Reuters on September 11.

At the ceremony, Schiffer told the crowd of approximately 4,000 people that she had a strong interest in politics, and that her father, just like Mečiar, had been a lawyer. "Unfortunately, I have not had much time to spend over here," she added.

In the relaxed atmosphere of the ceremonial, Mečiar noted that even though Schiffer was considered the most beautiful model in the world, the most beautiful women in general came from Slovakia. "We invited Claudia Schiffer to Slovakia so we could check out the competition," Mečiar said.

Three days later, on September 13, Paul Belmondo, the son of a French movie star Jean-Paul Belmondo, arrived in Slovakia to assist Mečiar with laying a foundation stone of another part of trans-Slovakia D1 motorway, this time the Važec-Mengusovce stretch beneath the High Tatras mountain range.

Belmondo, a Formula 3 racer, later in the day participated in a HZDS rally in Poprad, where he gave Mečiar a pair of boxing gloves and then engaged the Premier in a short boxing match.

The Slovak media had announced a few days earlier that the more famous Jean-Paul Belmondo was also coming for this ceremony with his wife, but Art Media, the agency representing Belmondo Sr., said the star would not be coming for "health reasons."

Star costs

Ivan Mjartan, Mečiar's HZDS party campaign manager, told the opposition daily Sme that the participation of celebrities had been organized merely to support Mečiar as a Prime Minister, not as the HZDS chairman. "It seems to me that the inclusion of the artists in various activities that could be marked as HZDS election events has been overdramatized," Mjartan said. He added that the events had not been paid for out of state resources, as the opposition had claimed.

Show business insiders said that the cost of promotional appearances by celebrities like Schiffer ranged from one to ten million Slovak crowns ($28,500-285,000). "But the prices for political events rise dramatically," said Pavel Melounek, head of public relations at the International Film Festival Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, for the daily Sme. Slovak independent Twist Radio reported on September 10 that Schiffer's participation had cost five to seven million Sk ($143,000-200,000).

Mečiar himself reported that neither Schiffer nor Belmondo's visit had cost the government or the HZDS movement a single penny. "One of my friends paid for it," Mečiar said at a HZDS rally in the eastern Slovak city of Humenné. "My friends in Europe helped me to bring such influential personalities over to Slovakia," Mečiar added, without specifing the actual costs.

The new election law that the HZDS pushed through the Parliament in April allows each political party or a movement that participates in the national elections to spend maximum amount of 12 million Sk ($343,000).

The Slovak media suggested that more stars, such as Gerard Depardieu, Ornella Muti and Claudia Cardinale, might be next on the list to come and support Mečiar at similar events.

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