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Ruling coalition slumps in poll

Both Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the government administration led by the HZDS lost more ground to the newly-formed Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) in November, according to an opinion poll released on December 3 by the independent MVK agency.
The poll showed that support for the HZDS dropped to 20.5 percent from 26.1 percent in October, while SDK preferences stayed almost unchanged at 32.4 percent. Due to the HZDS slump, overall support for the coalition government parties has also slipped to 30.5 percent from 36.2 percent in October.
Even worse for the current ruling coalition, one of Mečiar's partners, the Association of Slovak Workers (ZRS) would, at its current level of support, fail to gain any representation at all in the 150 seat assembly if elections were held today, burying for the time being Mečiar's hopes of retaining power under the same coalition structure in the general elections scheduled for September 1998.

Both Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the government administration led by the HZDS lost more ground to the newly-formed Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) in November, according to an opinion poll released on December 3 by the independent MVK agency.

The poll showed that support for the HZDS dropped to 20.5 percent from 26.1 percent in October, while SDK preferences stayed almost unchanged at 32.4 percent. Due to the HZDS slump, overall support for the coalition government parties has also slipped to 30.5 percent from 36.2 percent in October.

Even worse for the current ruling coalition, one of Mečiar's partners, the Association of Slovak Workers (ZRS) would, at its current level of support, fail to gain any representation at all in the 150 seat assembly if elections were held today, burying for the time being Mečiar's hopes of retaining power under the same coalition structure in the general elections scheduled for September 1998.

The ZRS would receive only 2.9 percent of the vote, not nearly enough for entering the chamber, as representation in the Slovak parliament is restricted by a five percent threshold for individual parties and a 10 percent quorum for coalitions.

The Slovak National Party (SNS), the other junior government party, would safely cross the threshold with 7.1 percent.

The HZDS has been the strongest political party in Slovakia ever since it emerged in the spring of 1991, winning general elections in 1992 and 1994 with 32 and 35 percent of the vote respectively. However, last September it lost its dominant position in the polls for the first time in five and a half years to a new rival, the SDK.

The SDK was created last summer to challenge HZDS's hegemony in Slovak politics, but so far has no single leader as it consists of five opposition parties: the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), the Democratic Union (DU), the Democratic Party (DS), the Green Party (SZS) and the Social Democrats (SDSS).

HZDS Deputy Chairman, Oľga Keltošová, reacted to the poll's results by saying that the SDK has started its election campaign too early and that it would probably run out of steam before the coming elections scheduled for September 1998. "I can't imagine what [ SDK leader Mikuláš] Dzurinda will be saying in a year, if he spends all his ammuniton now," Keltošová said, adding that the HZDS has not yet started its own campaign.

"The [poll's] results only confirm the fact that the current ruling coalition gradually keeps losing the ability to govern and to address the most pressing problems of the common man," Dzurinda countered.

The two other parties that would make it into the assembly at the moment will be crucial to the formation of a majority government next fall. The Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) was third overall with 12.5 percent, followed by the ethnic Hungarian Coalition (MK) with 8.8 percent. While the SDK has already assured itself of the MK's support (please, see related story, page 2), the higher popularity of the SDĽ ensures that it will be courted by both major rivals during the election year.

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