Slovak Premier Vladimír Mečiar produced convincing evidence of his talents as an orator at a rally in Trnava on September 15. Stumping for his ruling HZDS party, Mečiar had a crowd of four thousand people hanging on his every word, persuaded that he is still the most charismatic and riveting speaker in the country.
"We're number one," he boomed several times to the enthusaistic cheers of his audience, which was packed into the city Sports Hall. When Mečiar arrived, the mostly elderly audience broke into a spontaneous three minute standing ovation, and applauded lustily throughout the Premier's address. Mečiar answered prepared questions on agriculture, NATO and EU integration, youth issues and housing construction, among others.
Many people at the rally expressed their admiration for Mečiar and for his committment for Slovaks. "He is so good, and so smart. He is attacked so much. If nothing else, I will vote for him just for that," said a female cook in her thirties.
Mečiar also showed a talent for arousing pathos, awarding a computer and stuffed rabbit to a retarded child, who stood bewildered as a thunderclap of applause broke around him.
The Premier also did not miss the opportunity to address events at the private Markíza TV station. "I want Markíza to broadcast [even though] it did not really give coverage to the opposition Christian Democratic Movement [KDH], nor to our [HZDS] movement. It only covered the opposition Party of Civic understanding [SOP]," Meciar said.
After the Trnava rally, Mečiar left for another rally in Sered. A brass band played happy music and the thousands raised a raucous cheer as the Premier's fleet of shining limousines glided out of the parking lot. Most rally supporters had come on one of 15 chartered buses, most of which had a huge Mečiar picture peering through the windscreen.
The meeting in Senica was a cozier one, with about 500 people indoors at the House of Culture. Once again, every joke, every play on words (Mečiar described German supermodel Claudia Schiffer, who recently visited Slovakia, as "bearable to look at") was applauded by the crowd.
When a 25 year-old construction worker obejcted to the love-in - "Why are you clapping?" he demanded of the crowd - he was immediately thrown out of the room by Mečiar's security service. The young man, Vojtech Danek, was not completely sober, but then neither were many in the crowd, given the free beer that was on offer.
Danek took up his complaint again outside the hall. "I was at a rally with [opposition SDK party leader] Mikuláš Dzurinda, and he let me ask a question. Mečiar would not even give me a chance," he complained.
But the crowd of elderly witnesses to Danek's frustration were not in the least sympathetic. "Look at him, why does he come here if he is for the opposition," cried an elderly man, who refused to give his name.
21. Sep 1998 at 0:00 | Andrea Lörinczová