From the geostrategic point of view, Slovakia has an important location at the heart of Europe. No wonder then that whenever the opposition claims things are not developing to their liking, some influential circles abroad readily address sharp criticisms to Slovakia. Very much in the same way as in the past, the only difference being that this time it is not Moscow who is lecturing the Slovaks, but rather the West.
Regarding your open letter to the Slovak Prime Minister ("Editorial," Vol. 3 #11 - June 5-18, 1997), let me express my own comments:
One should bear in mind several important facts. First of all, the president joined two separate referenda into one. The National Council of the Slovak Republic approved three questions regarding NATO membership. The so called "blue coalition"- the opposition parties - initiated a petition, eventually collecting enough signatures that called for direct election of the president.
The signatures were then checked out in the president's office by his staff and, subsequently, the president set the same date for the second referendum, deliberately adding the "presidential" question to the three NATO membership questions. However, according to the ruling by the nation's Constitutional Court, which cam shortly before the referendum, the fourth question, the one on the direct election of the president- was in contradiction with the existing law, namely article 3, clause 2 of Law No. 564/1992 Corpus Juris, specifying the procedure for holding a referendum as set down by Article 100 of the Constitution of the Slovak Republic.
As regards the issue of the direct election of the president by the people, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) made it very clear several times, as early as in 1994, that it is in favor of the idea of enabling the people to decide as to who should become the head of state. Provided of course, that such an arrangement would not violate the nation's Constitution. Consequently, a bill is now being prepared to this effect for deliberation at the next session of the parliament. At least 90 Deputies will have to say "yes" if it is to become law.
Although it is true that only about 10 percent of the electorate turned out to cast their vote in the percent referendum, it is indeed absurd to try to hint that democracy "isn't working". Different people hold different views on what precisely is democratic and what's not. Democracy should not be mistaken for anarchy, and if some claim, as they do, that breaching the Constitution is democratic, they should be reminded that they are wrong.
The law is the same for everyone, for the coalition and the opposition alike. It is the citizen, and no one else, who takes the final decision at free election which political party and which politicians should be in power for the next four years. The results of a democratic general election give a clear signal who the electorate really trust. With 35 percent of the vote HZDS was the clear winner in the last general election. The second strongest party, incidentally an opposition one, got only 10 percent of the votes. What is then the whole fuss really about? Don't worry democracy in Slovakia is alive and well in spite of the democracy "game" played by the opposition through the media. The opposition lost the chance to come in power in the last election but they can try again at the next general election to be held in 1998. The trust of the electorate can only be won through hard and hones work. The final judge is the citizen, no none else. To think otherwise, for instance that "help" can come from outside the country, would be political insanity.
Integration is a long-term process, requiring more than just a year or two to accomplish it successfully. Not so long ago the Slovak Republic was part of the Warsaw Pact. Many can still remember the sight of the last foreign troops leaving the country for good. The damage, ecological, moral and economic, has been enormous. One cannot help asking who can possibly be afraid of Slovakia militarily, irrespective of whether the nation will become a member state of NATO or not.
The Warsaw Pact is dead and buried. What sense does it make then to go on bragging about this or that country's nuclear arsenal? Would it not be wiser to allocate the resources spent on arms to other, more human purposes?
Membership of the EU is indeed an attractive prospect for many countries including Slovakia. However, clear rules are absolutely necessary in order to know exactly what are the benefits and disadvantages of joining the club. The same of course applies also to NATO membership.
The elections in this country take place every four years. As you will know, no one can inherit power in Slovakia. It has to be won through the support of the electorate, and if the voters think that the HZDS represents their interest best it is by no means without reason. The voters are wise enough, and they will speak their mind in he 1998 democratic general elections.
19. Jun 1997 at 0:00