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Who is Ano: TV & sports figures, field experts but no politicians

THE START-UP non-parliamentary New citizens' alliance (Ano) party, headed by media magnate Pavol Rusko, has published a candidate list comprised of well-known personalities from all walks of life, with the exception of politics.
Party representatives say that the list, which features acknowledged specialists as well as personalities from TV and sports, is balanced, and indicates the party's genuine efforts to, "nominate experts to the first 20 places [on the candidate list]," said Jozef Heriban, head of Ano's election campaign, and number 13 on the list.
However, some political analysts fear that the popular personalities featured on the Ano list are included more to generate votes than to shape policy.

THE START-UP non-parliamentary New citizens' alliance (Ano) party, headed by media magnate Pavol Rusko, has published a candidate list comprised of well-known personalities from all walks of life, with the exception of politics.

Party representatives say that the list, which features acknowledged specialists as well as personalities from TV and sports, is balanced, and indicates the party's genuine efforts to, "nominate experts to the first 20 places [on the candidate list]," said Jozef Heriban, head of Ano's election campaign, and number 13 on the list.

However, some political analysts fear that the popular personalities featured on the Ano list are included more to generate votes than to shape policy.

"It is possible that these candidates are only going to be used to attract voters and thereafter will not have much real influence," said Grigorij Mesežnikov, head of the Institute for Public Affairs think tank.

According to Mesežnikov's rough estimates, Ano may capture between 10 and 14 seats in the 150 member assembly in September elections, giving them a realistic chance to be part of Slovakia's future ruling coalition.

As with other parties in the pre-election period, The Slovak Spectator is taking a closer look at the first 15 entries on Ano's list.

Several of the candidates are well known to the public, stemming from exposure on the private TV Markíza, owned by Rusko.

Number two on Ano's list is Ľubomír Lintner, former journalist and head of Markíza's news department before leaving to join Ano in March 2001.

Another former Markíza journalist, Eva Černá, is slated to be Ano's fourth MP, provided the party gets the requisite votes.

However, not all candidates coming from Markíza are known from the TV screen. Heriban, for example, is the former PR head for the station, and previously served as advertising director.

Ano vice-chair Robert Nemcsics, former Head of Office at the Finance Ministry under the last Mečiar government, is also connected to Rusko's media holdings through his membership on the board of CWG, a firm controlled by Markíza co-founder Ján Kováčik.

Besides TV personalities and insiders, Ano's candidate list also includes a strong line-up of famous men and women from the sporting world. "A lot of people in Slovakia enjoy sports and our party considers this to be significant," said Heriban, adding that rather than as attractions, Ano views these people as professionals.

Vice-mayor of Poprad Anton Danko, number five on the list, is a respected ice-hockey referee, with several Czechoslovak and Slovak Referee of the Year titles. In 1994 he officciated the ice-hockey world championship finals match between Canada and Finland. He is also the only candidate among the top 15 not to live in Bratislava.

Another athlete is number 18 on Ano's list - Stanislav Kropilák, former Czechoslovak basketball star and general manager of the Inter Bratislava basketball team.

Jirko Malchárek is a well-known race car driver who, in May 2002 signed a contract to become a test driver for Minardi, becoming the first Slovak to join the elite ranks of a Formula One team. At number nine on the list, he has promised that he will give up his racing career if Ano gathers sufficient voter support to send him to parliament.

Malchárek is also the only person on Ano's candidate list who is a current MP. In 1998 he reached parliament with current President Rudolf Schuster's Civic Understanding Party (SOP) but became an independent MP in April 2001.

Ano's candidate list also features experts from various social fields including education, healthcare and the judiciary.

Ján Drgonec, former Constitutional Court Justice and Ano number three, is currently working as an attorney and member of the recently established Judicial Council, the supreme judicial administrative body.

Healthcare reform is the expressed priority of Rudolf Zajac, Ano's shadow health minister and number eight on the candidate list.

Zajac has close ties to the tiny Democratic party (DS), where he was the party's resident healthcare expert from 1996 to April 2001. His brother Peter Zajac has also been DS vice-chairman and MP.

Not being a member of Ano, Zajac is the party's highest-ranking independent candidate. In 2001 he said he would co-operate with almost any party ready to support his reform concepts, support that Rusko has promised following elections.

Another independent, František Tóth, is a secondary school headmaster and Ano's shadow education minister. In 1994 he became head of the association of private schools.

Another education specialist on the Ano candidate list is Beáta Brestenská from Comenius Univeristy's natural sciences faculty in Bratislava. Brestenská is currently in charge of the Infovek project, aimed at connecting Slovak schools to the Internet.

A look at the first 15 places also reveals a number of people oriented towards foreign policy.

Former president of the Bratislava's Rotary club Imrich Béreš is Ano's foreign relations vice-chairman. In 2001 he was elected to Bratislava's regional parliament and has also been co-chair of the joint EU - Slovak regional council.

Ano's shadow foreign minister Rudolf Chmel served as Czechoslovak ambassador to Hungary from 1990 to 1992. Currently on the faculty of Prague's Charles University, Chmel directed the Open Society Foundation in Bratislava from 1993 to 2000.

Jozef Banáš, at number 11, is a former diplomat who between 1983 and 1988 worked as press attaché at the Czechoslovak embassy in East Germany, and later served as ambassador to Austria from 1990 to 1992.

"I have a very good opinion about these people as experts," said Mesežnikov. However, he also expressed worry that the candidates' lack of political experience may prove to be a handicap.

"It is our advantage," Heriban said countering the analyst. According to Ano, new people are needed in politics 12 years after the fall of communism.

"Our entire candidate list is put together to attract the voters, we make no secrets about it. Attracting the voter is the priority for us," said Heriban.

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