Autumn of political discontent shows at rally

The autumn season of political discontent opened September 28, when more than 12,000 people gathered on Bratislava's Námestie SNP to express their displeasure with recent social and political developments. The rally, organized by the petition committee "For Free Speech," was more explicitly anti-government in tone than previous public meetings in early summer. In the days following the protest, two opposition political parties called for a special session of parliament to examine Slovakia's domestic political situation, especially in light of increased tension between the police and the Slovak Information Service (SIS) over the investigation of the kidnapping of Michal Kováč, Jr., the president's son.


KDH chairman Ján Čarnogurský demanded a special session of parliament to investigate the SIS's involvement in the Michal Kováč Jr. kidnapping.
TASR photo

The autumn season of political discontent opened September 28, when more than 12,000 people gathered on Bratislava's Námestie SNP to express their displeasure with recent social and political developments. The rally, organized by the petition committee "For Free Speech," was more explicitly anti-government in tone than previous public meetings in early summer.

In the days following the protest, two opposition political parties called for a special session of parliament to examine Slovakia's domestic political situation, especially in light of increased tension between the police and the Slovak Information Service (SIS) over the investigation of the kidnapping of Michal Kováč, Jr., the president's son. The Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) wants a closed session to hear testimony from the interior ministry, attorney general and the head of OKO, the parliamentary supervisory body of the SIS. The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) was more specific in its demand. While not insisting on a closed session, the KDH wants to probe the activities of the SIS and its chief, Ivan Lexa.

"It's possible that support from the public showed the parties that this needs to be done," said Ladislav Šutý, spokesman for the Free Speech petition committee.

Ivan Šimko, the KDH deputy submitted the special session request to Parliamentary Chairman Ivan Gašpárovič, said the Slovak Constitution stipulates that a special session request must be honored if at least 30 MPs ask for it. The KDH petition has 35 signatures, Šimko added.

The cabinet was not happy with the request. HZDS leaders accused the opposition of destabilizing poltical life in Slovakia and unnecessarily increasing tension in society. "The KDH is trying to destabilize the state, and the HZDS is not willing to assist it," said the party's deputy Augustín Húska said. "Problems between the SIS and the police are not so serious that parliament has to deal with them."

The rally was organized to give citizens a chance to express their opinion, Šutý said, not to give voice to any political party. But Slovaks from Bratislava, Žilina, Lucenec and other towns who came to hear KDH chairman Ján Čarnogurský and other members of parliament speak against the perceived violence and secrecy of the SIS and the increased concentration of political power in Mečiar's hands did not hesitate to chant "enough with Mečiar" and cheer wildly when Čarnogurský called Mečiar and Lexa "the greatest shame and menace for Slovakia."

The HZDS in turn said it was opposition leaders who create the biggest threat and shame the country. Instead of questioning themselves, a HZDS statement released to the Slovak press agency TASR after the rally said, "they are permanently attacking the HZDS and the other parties in the cabinet coalition, with the aim to destabilize society."

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