On March 5, Parliament failed again to elect a successor to former president Michal Kováč, ensuring a continuation of the country's deepening political crisis.
As widely expected, the first ballot of the second round ended in deadlock as neither of the two candidates, Ladislav Ballek nominated by the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ), and Milan Fogaš nominated by an independent deputy Miroslav Kočnár, obtained the three-fifths majority required to produce a winner. Ballek obtained the support of 49 deputies, while Fogaš was only endorsed by five.
"A three-fifths majority of all deputies is required to elect a president, and as none of the candidates gained this number, Parliament has not elected a Slovak president," Gašparovič told the assembly.
There is no provision in the constitution to break the deadlock and an unlimited number of new votes could take place.
Slovakia has been without a president since March 2 when Kováč stepped down, handing some of his powers over to Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar. Mečiar now has the right to represent Slovakia abroad and grant amnesties, but no one is empowered to sign laws into effect or appoint or recall ministers, which places the country effectively in a state of constitutional crisis.
Parliament, split asunder between coalition and opposition, will have its next chance to resolve the crisis on March 19, the day set by Parliamentary Speaker Ivan Gašparovič to stage a repeat vote in the second round. The same candidates will stand again.
Two days before the Parliamentary vote, Mečiar cancelled a referendum which asked citizens whether they wished to directly elect the next country's president. The public vote is seen by both the opposition and Kováč, who called it for April 19, as a way out of the impasse.
"[Mečiar's] Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) is blocking the presidential elections in parliament," said Ivan Šimko, a leading member of the opposition Slovak Democratic Coalition. "I call on all citizens to take the vote into their hands and support actions leading to direct presidential elections."
But Augustín Marián Húska, HZDS Vice-Chairman, accused the opposition of inflaming the atmosphere over the elections. "You are desperately trying to poison the atmosphere about presidential elections," he said.
12. Mar 1998 at 0:00 | Peter Laca