Premier Vladimír Mečiar is determined to steamroll everything that stands in the way of his winning this year's parliamentary elections. State administration offices throughout the country have been organized to help him in achieving this goal, as will be the Office of the Government, where experts are working on Mečiar's election program.
Speaking at a January 24 party conference of his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) in Martin, Mečiar revealed several key parts of his election plan. Details of the speech were leaked to the Práca daily about a month later.
"No party that is scared can run for election, and we are not scared," Mečiar was reported to have said at the session. "We must heal the wounds we have suffered. I have issued two statements in which I said I would not become the leader of the opposition. That was not meant to fuel fears about what will happen when I'm not here, it was meant to make you aware that we must win. We have no other chance."
Conceding that about 52 percent of the population blame the ruling coalition and him personally for the current situation in society, Mečiar said that the time had come for a total mobilization of HZDS political structures in the state administration in order to prevent a fundamental turnaround of the political situation. "The state administration is here to obey the decisions of political organs," Mečiar said.
The state administration should help the HZDS "neutralize the influence of those who oppose us," Mečiar said, citing priests and anyone who influences public opinion, especially teachers and doctors. He also announced a reshuffling of top posts at those state administration offices where "alcohol, inadequate work efficiency and arrogance" are preventing the HZDS from increasing its public support.
Mečiar's plans to use state administration bodies for partisan gain included manipulating high-level state apparatuses as well. He announced in Martin that specialists from the Office of the Government are working on the HZDS election program.
In a March 6 interview with the independent Radio Twist, HZDS Deputy Chairman Augustín Marián Húska did not deny the authenticity of the transcript published in Práca, but said that the political goals and methods outlined by Mečiar are perfectly legitimate in a democratic country.
But Milan Kňažko, Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Union, described Mečiar's tactics as utterly undemocratic. "It seemed that democracy couuld not be threatened any further," he told the Pravda daily. "It seemed that it wasn't possible to show any less respect for the law, or to more wholly despise the principles of democracy and fundamental human behavior. But now we see that the political group led by Mečiar has no scruples and we can expect even harsher infringements of the law. Based on Mečiar's speech in Martin, I think a qualified guess can be made that he will try to manipulate the elections."
Whatever it takes
When asked how far Mečiar might be willing to go in his quest for re-election, Kňažko said "it's hard for a normal man to predict what can happen in the short-circuit thinking of Vladimír Mečiar, what limits he is able to exceed to retain the power he is losing."
The main duty of the HZDS, Mečiar said in Martin, was to strive to achieve such an election result that would enable it to form a government alone in October. "[The goal is] to have a constitutional majority that would enable us to make such changes in the constitution that would definitively change the political regime in Slovakia, so that it would no longer change," he said. "All we need to achieve this goal is 90 seats in Parliament."
Mečiar's desire to form a government on his own is as old as the HZDS itself. Before the 1992 elections he said that "all we need is fifty percent plus one vote." Before the 1994 elections, he said, "The question is not whether we will win, because we have no doubts that we will. The question is how much we will win and whether that will be enough to form a government, or if we will have to enter a coalition. According to our calculations, a coalition might not be necessary."
But shooting for a constitutional majority may be aiming too high, especially given the fact that Mečiar's support has dropped consistently over the years. In 1992, the HZDS won 74 seats out of 150 in Parliament, but two years later was reduced to 61.
26. Mar 1998 at 0:00 | Daniel Borský