Vladimír Ďaďo, 49, is chairman of the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) and one of those communists who refused to be reformed. A steelworker who used to shovel six tons per shift and who later swarmed up the rungs of the KSS political ladder, became a fallen angel after the 1989 revolution. Having been refused a job at over 30 places between 1990 and 1991, Ďaďo eventually became chairman of the re-established KSS, twenty years after having joined the party in 1972.
Ďaďo believes he can make it to Parliament in September. But will he become another prop to support Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar in power, the way Ján Ĺupták did after the 1994 elections, or will he pursue his dream of uniting Slovakia's leftist parties? The Slovak Spectator's Daniel Borský interviewed him about his party's prospects.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What is at the heart of your political program?
Vladimír Ďaďo: At its 1996 congress, the KSS addressed all leftist parties with a call to put an end to our dissipation and mutual confrontation, and to create a single leftist bloc which could compete with rightist and centrist forces more successfully. The goal was to gain real political influence, because at the moment the handful of SDĽ deputies who sit in Parliament are limited to raising their hands to approve or to protest.
TSS: In the Czech Republic the left enjoys over 50 percent support, while in the Slovak Parliament it is represented by 31 deputies, divided between the opposition SDĽ, the government ZRS, and several independent deputies. Why?
Ďaďo: After November '89, the Slovak left was literally crushed - out of 400,000 members, about 40,000 remained. Ever since, the Slovak leftist electorate has bought every populist swindle various politicians have thrown at it. I would hate to say that Slovaks are stupid, but they are certainly strange. It is admirable [that they can] withstand for so long such high unemployment and such low wages without any kind of social conflict. I believe that it would help all Slovakia if the real left finally woke up.
TSS: How did other leftist parties respond to your appeal for unity? To what extent is it realistic to expect their cooperation before these elections?
Ďaďo: At the moment it is not realistic at all, because neither the SDĽ nor the ZRS have responded. Last year, we met several times with SDĽ representatives and discussed the possibilities of cooperation, but didn't reach any tangible results. The ZRS hasn't reacted at all. On the other hand, several smaller parties did, but we will enter this year's election campaign on our own.
TSS: Do you think you have a real chance to cross the 5-percent threshold?
Ďaďo: Look, in 1994 our goal was 3 percent and we reached 2.9, with no money for campaigning, no billboards, no posters, only rallies and allotted air time on state television. Recent polls show that our support is around three percent, which gives us a shot at reaching five. I know that in many regions our support is much higher than five percent, especially in the eastern Slovak regions of Snina, Svidník and Humenné. In Snina, for instance, there is almost no village without a KSS branch office. But support is weaker in Bratislava and in the Orava region due to religion.
TSS: Can you try to predict the composition of the new Parliament?
Ďaďo: The SDK will be the strongest, and the HZDS will also have a strong representation, I would guess around 20 percent. The SDĽ and the SOP will follow. The SNS will make it too, because if polls say otherwise, then their chairman [Ján Slota] publicly smacks [ethnic Hungarian leader Miklós] Duray, and suddenly they have two percent more. The question is whether the ZRS or the KSS will be the last party to enter.
TSS: Who might you team up with if you really make it?
Ďaďo: It's too soon to tell, but the order of parties closest to us is SDĽ-ZRS-HZDS. However, the HZDS leadership is more appealing to me than the SDĽ leadership, and if it was up to me whether we leaned towards the SDĽ or HZDS, the latter would be more likely. But that's my personal opinion.
TSS: Doesn't your party have different priorities than the HZDS?
Ďaďo: That's true, our long-term goal is a return to a socialist society. I also admit that we support the SDK's plan to reprivatize, as we believe that privatization to one's cronies for one crown is totally unacceptable.
TSS: What is the gist of your economic program?
Ďaďo: We support plurality of ownership. If an individual can be a successful entrepreneur, why couldn't the state be? We also want to radically change legal norms for small and medium-sized businesses, enabling them to care more about their development than endless hassles with bureaucracy. A crucial part is to revive production in big factories that used to produce a big chunk of our GDP, mostly heavy machinery producers. Here in Martin, such a company used to employ 10,000 people, but for nearly ten years it's been at a standstill, for God's sake.