The strongest opposition grouping, the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), introduced on May 10 a fundamental alternative to the current government of Vladimír Mečiar. The new program aims to crack an uncompromising whip on the Mafia, to revive the Slovak economy by encouraging housing projects, and to regain the position Slovakia used to have in EU and NATO integration processes.
But political scientists say that the SDK's program is not yet well enough defined to merit comment, and argue that personalities rather than policies will decide the results of September's national elections
"The SDK doesn't differ from [other opposition parties] by proclaiming various things, because everybody knows what the citizen needs: work, a higher standard of living, better housing and less crime," said Vladimír Palko, the SDK's election program coordinator. "[But] the distinctive feature [of the SDK program] is detailed solutions to specific problems."
However, Soňa Szomolaný, head of the Political Science Department at Comenius University in Bratislava, said that the program would not greatly influence voters. "The leader of the party and its top people are more important," she said, adding that although SDK leader Mikulaš Dzurinda was not ideal, "he does have a certain charisma."
Palko said one of the main SDK priorities was to fight organized crime and to enable the police to enforce the rule of law. "Many politicians talk about that, but only a few see behind the curtain," he said. "We know about connections between the Interior Ministry and organized crime [figures]. We know about concrete meetings of specific people like Interior Minister [Gustav] Krajči and Mikuláš Černák, the Mafia boss who is now locked up."
But Ján Cuper, a HZDS deputy, said he didn't think the prevalence of organized crime had anything to do with the current government. "This has occured not because of the government, but because Slovakia has become an open society," he said.
Palko said that by an ambitious program to construct new flats, the SDK hoped to cut the unemployment rate. "Some investments can't create employment, but investment in flat construction solves the question of housing and directly creates new jobs," said Palko.
Cuper, for his part, said the flats-building plan was just a cheap gimick, and criticized another SDK scheme to cut the unemployment rate. "To create 70,000 new jobs by getting people to retire two years earlier is very easy, but I don't know who's going to cover their pensions," he said.
"Cuper is not an economist," Palko replied. "He is the kind of person to be taken with a pinch of salt. [But] we can agree that the HZDS doesn't know how to [solve unemployment]," he added, referring to a 1994 HZDS promise to slash the unemployment rate to 10%.
The last distinctive feature of the SDK's program is to earn back the international respect Slovakia once enjoyed.
"We have to remove all political obstacles created by the current government, which will not take long, I'm sure," said Milan Kňažko, a former foreign minister and vice-chairman of the opposition Democratic Union. "Besides [continuing] integration steps towards the EU and NATO, the SDK has to start building good relationships with Slovakia's neighbors and focus on the G7, or rather G8 or G24 countries," Kňažko added.
Addressing the negligible differences between the SDK's foreign policy program and those of other opposition parties, Kňažko explained that foreign policy programs should not differ too much. "Foreign policy interests must not be the subject of a political fight or some personal experiments," he said.
18. Jun 1998 at 0:00 | Slavomír Danko