IN SHORT

Mečiar flexes muscles for AP

SLOVAKIA's former authoritarian prime minister is pledging to safeguard stability if he is returned to power in upcoming parliamentary elections.

Vladimír Mečiar, head of the country's most popular party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), told the Associated Press wire service that only his party could provide the strong leadership needed to make tough economic choices as Slovakia completes its bid for membership in the European Union (EU).

"I have been prime minister three times," he said. "For me, it's a matter of routine."

Mečiar's promise to stress stability comes after four years of political infighting under Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, with disputes pushing the government to the brink of collapse on several occasions. Dzurinda's government, which is made up of a broad spectrum of parties, was sometimes slow to compromise on needed reforms, said AP.

"What other party can stabilise society and bring it out of the situation it has come to?" Mečiar asked. "The HZDS is the only one."

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