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Election commission bars two parties

The August 7 meeting of the newly-formed Central Election Commission produced several controversial decisions, leading commission members to exchange accusations of narrow partisanship. The commission refused on to register 2 of the 18 parties and movements that had applied to contest the election, citing mistakes in their candidates lists, but allowed a Hungarian party whose list had the same faults to register. Meanwhile, the largest opposition party, the SDK, was permitted to contest the election by a margin of only one vote, despite having a fault-free list.
In the aftermath of the meeting, commission delegates dropped any pretense of making common cause for a smooth election process. "[SDK delegate Ján] Čarnogursky is lucky as hell that the SDK was registered at all," said Ján Šárovecký, a delegate representing the ruling HZDS party of Premier Vladimír Mečiar. Šárovecký later told independent Radio Twist that the HZDS would appeal the SDK registration to the Supreme Court on the basis of the fact that the SDKwas a coalition rather than a party.

The August 7 meeting of the newly-formed Central Election Commission produced several controversial decisions, leading commission members to exchange accusations of narrow partisanship. The commission refused on to register 2 of the 18 parties and movements that had applied to contest the election, citing mistakes in their candidates lists, but allowed a Hungarian party whose list had the same faults to register. Meanwhile, the largest opposition party, the SDK, was permitted to contest the election by a margin of only one vote, despite having a fault-free list.

In the aftermath of the meeting, commission delegates dropped any pretense of making common cause for a smooth election process. "[SDK delegate Ján] Čarnogursky is lucky as hell that the SDK was registered at all," said Ján Šárovecký, a delegate representing the ruling HZDS party of Premier Vladimír Mečiar. Šárovecký later told independent Radio Twist that the HZDS would appeal the SDK registration to the Supreme Court on the basis of the fact that the SDKwas a coalition rather than a party.

Čarnogurský, for his part, said that the commission's support of the Hungarian People's Movement for Reconciliation and Prosperity was "a bad decision," and accused commission delegates of voting accordng to narrow partisan interests.

The furore was not entirely unexpected. Opposition politicians and independent observers have claimed since the commission's first meeting on July 24 that many of the formerly 18 parties on the election commission would vote with the HZDS on electoral matters.

Mária Ďurišová, a commission member from the SDĽ party of reformed communists, said that even though minor parties with names like Movement of the Third Way, The National Alternative for Slovakia or The United Party of Slovak Workers might evoke the impression that they were close to the current opposition and were disappointed with HZDS policies, they tended in fact to support the decisions that favored the HZDS. "This trend was evident in the proposal of Štefan Murín, chairman of the KSS [communist party], who demanded that commission members not be allowed to inform the press of what was discussed in commission sessions," Ďurišová said. Despite Murín's eventual withdrawal of the proposal after objections from opposition delegates, Ďurisová said, the HZDS commission members had supported the proposal in the first round of voting.

But HZDS legal expert Ján Cuper denied any cooperation with the KSS on the election commission board, and said that the HZDS was "in no way preparing any coalition with the Communist Party." According to Cuper, the HZDS was happy that Čarnogurský had failed to create an opposition majority within the CEC in order to "rig elections." "To this end, I appreciate the KSS representatives and their sound approach to matters," Cuper added.

Whatever the level of cooperation on the commission, the new election law has removed the body's formerly executive powers and reduced it to the status of a coordinator of electoral procedures. Although the commission is obliged to take core decisions on various questions that directly touch elections, such as the presence of OSCE observers at the elections, its power to prevent electoral fraud has been severely reduced.

"The commission may easily decide not to allow observers in the election rooms during the vote-count," said Grigorij Mesežnikov, a political analyst at the Institute of Public Affairs. Mesežnikov added, though, that the commission's powers were inferior to those of the pro-HZDS state administration.

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