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SOCIAL DEMOCRATS, GREENS TEAM WITH BLUE COALITION PARTIES

Rainbow coalition looking to topple HZDS in '98

Fresh wind stirred the waves in the Slovak political pool at the beginning of June, as two opposition parties, the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia (SDSS) and the Slovak Greens' Party (SZS) abandoned the leftist shallows and swam to the abundant rightist streams. They stated their intention to sign a pre-election pact with three allied parties known as the Blue Coalition - the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), the Democratic Union (DU) and the Democratic Party (DS).
The move's consequences were twofold - a new swimmer that can match the muscle of Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) emerged on one end. A washout crawled out on the other, however, since the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) was marooned not only by SDSS and SZS, but also by the Farmers' Movement (HP) which is considering a fusion with the farmers' party within the ruling coalition.


With the Social Democrats and the Greens now on their side, Jozef Moravčík (DU), Ján Čarnogurský (KDH), and Ján Langoš (DS) are hoping they will be able to toast an election victory next year.
Vladimír Hák

Fresh wind stirred the waves in the Slovak political pool at the beginning of June, as two opposition parties, the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia (SDSS) and the Slovak Greens' Party (SZS) abandoned the leftist shallows and swam to the abundant rightist streams. They stated their intention to sign a pre-election pact with three allied parties known as the Blue Coalition - the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), the Democratic Union (DU) and the Democratic Party (DS).

The move's consequences were twofold - a new swimmer that can match the muscle of Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) emerged on one end. A washout crawled out on the other, however, since the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) was marooned not only by SDSS and SZS, but also by the Farmers' Movement (HP) which is considering a fusion with the farmers' party within the ruling coalition.

Getting ready to clash

According to Eduard Kukan, the DU chairman, the principal goal of the rainbow coalition, as the formation soon was called, is to create a strong democratic bloc that can pull in more votes than HZDS in the next year's general elections and gain the right to form a government. "This is the only chance to save democracy and, consequently, Slovakia's future," he said. Leaders of the rainbow coalition claim they can get up to 40 percent of votes while the HZDS shouldn't beat the 30 percent mark.

He may be right. The polls have been consistently showing over the past year that preferences of the rainbow parties combined make up slightly over 40 percent, while combined preferences of all current ruling parties have never gotten over the 40-percent mark during the same period.

"Even if HZDS entered the elections together with its present satellites - SNS and ZRS - I don't think they would obtain the necessary quorum to form a working government," Kukan added.

The challenged champion doesn't seem to have lost a single bit of self-confidence, trashtalking the challenger. Tibor Cabaj, chairman of the HZDS deputy club, called the newly emerged group a motley mess instead of harmonious rainbow. "If you mix from left to right, [it is going to be] a hybrid [like we already] had with the Moravčík government," he said.

Cabaj sees no problem with the fact that the HZDS coalition partners have different program priorities, such as neutrality and refusal to NATO. "The coalition agreement stipulates that six months before the elections, everyone is on his own," said Cabaj who firmly believes that HZDS is going to win again. "The worst case scenario is that we'll get what we got the last time - 34.96 percent," he said, adding that a strong opposition bloc won't lure any voters away from his movement.

Jozef Prokeš, the SNS honorary chairman, also believes that the current coalition is going to win again, but he thinks it's not a matter of pre-election coalition, but of post-election talks. Prokeš added that SNS could break the 10 percent mark.

Anton Poliak, a ZRS deputy, was more careful about future cooperation with HZDS and preferred creation of a leftist bloc with SDĽ. That's why he doesn't consider the recent SDSS and SZS decision reasonable. If ZRS entered the elections alone, Poliak thinks it would stay around the level from 1994 - 7.34 percent. The polls consistently show ZRS between 3 and 5 percent, just below the necessary 5-percent threshold to enter the assembly.

Lonely runner

The SDĽ has been abandoned not only by SDSS and SZS, but also by its third partner as HP plans to fuse with the HZDS appendix - the Farmers' Party (RSS) - in November and create a unified Agrarian Party. Peter Weiss, the SDĽ vice-chairman, views the SDSS decision as breaching the political agreement. "Many representatives of the Socialist Internationale are disappointed," he said. "I think it is mostly a personal policy of Mr. Volf," added Weiss.

Jaroslav Volf, the SDSS chairman, denied Weiss's accusations of infringing on program principles. He considers the bloc creation "a necessary step to defeat this harmful government." That government is simultaneously being joined by HP, the last particle of a once-ambitious leftist bloc. Weiss criticized the farmers for preferring the government RSS, which in his opinion "is to blame for all privatization manipulations and was involved in the wheat export scandal." He added that the SZS was always lukewarm about any real cooperation with the SDĽ.

Despite the disappointment, Weiss confirmed that the SDĽ is willing to cooperate with the "rainbow." He believes that his party will assume a strong position after the elections as its ambition is to be the strongest opposition party. "We would be happy if we received 20 percent; repeating 10 [from the last elections] would be considered a failure," Weiss said.

Weiss added that the SDĽ hasn't definitively excluded post-election cooperation even with the HZDS, but under precisely defined conditions. "We are not willing to support a policy embodied by Mr. Mečiar and [Parliament Speaker Ivan] Gašparovič," he said. "The HZDS would have to reconsider that policy, which is extremely improbable," he concluded.

All beefed up

Ján Langoš, the DS chairman, is cautious about SDĽ declarations. It doesn't suffice him that the SDĽ doesn't want to cooperate with Mečiar. "The HZDS with Mečiar is the same as without him - a fraternity called 'mafia' in the west," Langoš said. "SDĽ politics are whishy-washy and after the elections, they are just going to join the winner," he added.

Mikuláš Dzurinda, the KDH vice-chairman, expressed the same concern. "If HZDS election results are close to these of the rainbow, it will undoubtedly hope to get the SDĽ," he said. "I can imagine that such a scenario could be very attractive for some SDĽ voters and even leaders. Therefore, it is a political task for the opposition to ensure that the SDĽ is closer to us than to the HZDS and the best case scenario is to sign an agreement on post-election cooperation," he added.

This idea is shared by László Nagy, the chairman of the Hungarian Civic Party (MOS) which is not a member of the rainbow coalition, but is counted upon for a post-election cooperation as the other two Hungarian parties are. "The aim is to continue integration of the current opposition so that even if the HZDS wins elections, it will not be able to form a government and will have to give up that right," he said.

After signing a principal political accord, the rainbow plans to focus on a common program in the summer and present it to the public in the fall. Dzurinda said they are ready for attempts by the ruling coalition to mar the elections or to use force. "I allow for everything, but I deeply believe that neither the police, nor the army will let themselves be abused and if we warn people in advance that the Slovak Intelligence Service can set up anything, I think we can make it," he said.

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