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PREMIER KEEPS MOUNTING PRESSURE ON PRESIDENT

Time for final battle is up

On September 19 Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's cabinet issued a statement calling on President Michal Kováč to resign "before his activities are proven to be treason to our common motherland." That was the first time the cabinet openly challenged the president. Opposition politicians and independent journalists referred to the move as something that is becoming a normal part of Slovakia's political folklore. But the recent activities of the state administration indicate that Mečiar is far from aimlessly dancing around. On September 27, 30 local heads of state administration authorities supported the cabinet and issued a statement calling for the president to resign.


Anticipation... The ruling coalition has made it clear it no longer believes Michal Kováč should be president. Will a referendum decide?
TASR photo

On September 19 Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's cabinet issued a statement calling on President Michal Kováč to resign "before his activities are proven to be treason to our common motherland." That was the first time the cabinet openly challenged the president. Opposition politicians and independent journalists referred to the move as something that is becoming a normal part of Slovakia's political folklore.

But the recent activities of the state administration indicate that Mečiar is far from aimlessly dancing around. On September 27, 30 local heads of state administration authorities supported the cabinet and issued a statement calling for the president to resign. Two days later they were joined by the National Property Fund, which issued a similar statement.

But it is the Ministry of Culture that seems to have taken the lead in administration activities. On October 5, a document titled "Resolution of central organs of state administration" was issued. Its last paragraph said: "That's why all central organs of state administration of the Slovak Republic support in full the statement of the Slovak government from September 19, 1995, which contained an appeal to Mr. Michal Kováč to reconsider his remaining in office and resign for the sake of Slovakia."

That same day, the resolution was faxed to all institutions under the Culture Ministry's jurisdiction. The head of the minister's secretariat asked all institutions' directors to return the signed resolution on that day, October 5, to Minister Ivan Hudec's fax number, 323-528.

Ján Langoš, an independent MP representing the Democratic Party (DS), called the minister's move a criminal act of abusing the powers of a public authority combined with a criminal act of blackmail. "I remember similar campaigns from the communist era, when workers were asked to protest Charter 77, although they couldn't have had any opportunity to read any of its statements," Langoš said.

At a HZDS rally in Bratislava's Pasienky basketball arena on October 5, Mečiar addressed a crowd of about 3,000 people, saying there is a crucial problem to solve. "This society's problem is the conflicts of president versus parliament, president versus cabinet, president versus state," Mečiar boomed. Langoš's comments were characteristically wry. "It is symptomatic that Mečiar again masquerades as though he himself were the state," he said.

All this indicates that Mečiar may have decided to sweep Kováč from his office in a full offensive. Some political opponents say that by activating institutions of state administration to issue statements calling on the president to resign, Mečiar is trying to create the image as if the entire nation opposes the president.

"The prime minister's statements really indicate that he is determined to fight the last decisive battle," Langoš said. "But I happen to believe that there are no real constitutional possibilities to remove the president from his post. Such a 'decisive battle' can only occur unlawfully or violently."

Mečiar sees a way - taking people to the streets to decide on Kováč's fate there. "We should discuss this problem in parliament, on the streets and squares," Mečiar said at the rally. He then addressed the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), who has taken stage at Bratislava's Námestie SNP twice already, "We are going to come there too and there will be considerably more of us. If they [KDH] want to see how attitudes of citizens are changing, O.K., but before it starts, there will be discussion in all districts, villages and towns of Slovakia. So, beginning next week we start meeting in all sport halls, conference rooms and squares around Slovakia," Mečiar said.

A possible outcome of activating people in the streets may be a plebiscite on whether Kováč should remain in the office. So far, Mečiar has been cautious when talking about a referendum on the president, perhaps because opinion polls have shown a long-term lack of support for him, relative to Kováč.

A poll conducted by Slovak Radio in late September showed Mečiar trailing Kováč by 7 percent in terms of the public's confidence. Yet the prime minister has opted for open conflict with the president. "Of course, a dictator on his way to absolute power cannot be patient," Langoš said of Mečiar's determination. But he doubted Mečiar would get his way via referendum. "He won't rush with organizing a referendum, for he knows it's too risky for him."

But Mečiar's confidence in himself and the state was evident at the rally, where he said, "All those who want to test the power of the state, will encounter it."

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