"If it works...Mečiar will be weeded out forever. If it doesn't, then my business instincts were wrong."
Róbert Krajňák, Beer distributor
On November 11, 1995, Krajňák took out a full-page ad in four leading Slovak dailies, Nový Čas, Pravda, Práca, and Sme calling on citizens to sign up. Since then, the same ad has appeared several more times.
In the ad, Krajňák first cites the citizens' constitutional right to petition. The ad also contains an article from the Slovak Constitution, corroborated by a Mečiar quote, both saying that the power of the state is vested in Slovak citizens, who are the country's ultimate rulers. Using the quotes as a springboard, Krajňák calls on people to assume that right and support his drive.
The question is phrased, "Do you agree that Vladimír Mečiar should be recalled from the post of prime minister?" According to the Slovak Constitution, once an issue is decided in a referendum, it can be changed only by a constitutional majority in parliament or by another referendum, but not one held earlier than three years.
Below the question is a petition form with space for five names. Citizens are asked to give their name, date of birth, address and birth certificate number, and then send the ad or the form to Krajňák's P.O. Box. "I automatically sort out the ones that lack the birth certificate number, so that no one can dispute the number of valid signatures," Krajňák said.
Krajňák keeps the signatories' list in a computer database and adds to it periodically - that is, whenever he puts aside enough money to sponsor a new series of ads.
"I've invested hundreds of thousands of crowns into it already," Krajňák said.
Not only does Krajňák sponsor newspaper ads every now and then, he also bankrolls regular opinion polls. The first poll, conducted by the Focus agency, took place in the spring of 1996; the next four have been done by a firm called MVK. (See sidebar, this page)
All that effort could pay off. Krajňák said that recently he collected his 300,000th signature, putting him 50,000 shy of the minimum number required by the constitution. If Krajňák makes that number, he would then send the sheets to the Slovak President, who would be required by law to call a referendum within 120 days.
Even if he gathers enough signatures, Krajňák said he will save his ultimate weapon until after next year's elections, in case Mečiar wins again.
"I think I'll wait now," he said. "The elections will be next summer anyway. Had I sent enough signatures to the President right now, the referendum would have taken some time. It would perhaps not occur before December or January. I think I'll save it until after the elections. You know, just in case."
He added that there are no restrictions in the Constitution limiting the time in which one must gather enough signatures for petition to stage a public vote.
There was no immediate consensus on whether Krajňák's view is correct.
An entrepreneur from Stupava who distributes the Czech beer Radegast, Krajňák said he sees his move "as a classical risky investment."
"If it works," he continued, "the money spent will repay itself many times over, because all the harm that the Mečiar administration does will be weeded out forever. If it doesn't, then it's simple - my business instincts were wrong."
14. Aug 1997 at 0:00 | Daniel Borský