Premier Vladimír Mečiar, at a March 25 press conference for foreign media, fiercely rejected western criticism of his commitment to good governance and the rule of law.
"We are aware of the current wave of criticism within the European Union and the United States," Mečiar said. "Like other waves of criticism, this one has also occured without any consultation with legitimate Slovak authorites."
Earlier this month, the EU and the United States sharply criticized Mečiar for blocking criminal proceedings concerning a marred referendum last May and the 1995 kidnapping of Michal Kováč Jr., son of former Slovak president Michal Kováč.
But Mečiar said that foreign organizations had a distorted picture of Slovakia because they took only the views of the opposition into account, and thus did not really know what was happening in the country. "We are afraid of things we do not know," he continued. "People who need demons are those who are weak and uneducated."
With no head of state since Kováč stepped down on March 2, Slovakia has been in a state of constitutional crisis because Parliament is too divided to elect a Presidential successor. While Mečiar acquired most presidential powers on March 2, no constitutional figure has the right to sign laws into effect at the moment. The constitution, meanwhile, says nothing about this kind of situation, and does not state specifically that laws cannot take effect without the president's signature.
Should no resolution to the crisis be found before September's general elections, there would also be no constitutional way of changing the government, since the resignation of an outgoing government must be approved by a sitting president.
The opposition says it is precisely this sort of confusion that Mečiar sought to create, in order to enhance his grip on power. The referendum which his government marred last May was designed to avoid the current impasse by changing the method of selecting the president to a direct vote by the people.
One day after assuming his presidential powers, Mečiar used the power of amnesty to block any prosecutions in connection with both last year's referendum and a cancelled re-run called by Kováč for April 19.
But Mečiar claimed he had done nothing unconstitutional. "I am sure that if I violated the constitution as many times as I have been blamed for, the opposition would have a list of such cases," he said. "But it does not have it."
Last summer, Kováč's office prepared a document that gave an account of each of the 13 cases in which the Constitutional Court ruled that Mečiar's government had acted in violation of the constitution.
9. Apr 1998 at 0:00 | Peter Javurek