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CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS LEADER SAYS HE BELIEVES IN LOOKING FORWARD

Pavol Hrušovský: KDH target of "attempts to discredit"

THE FOYER of Pavol Hrušovský's office with the Christian Democrats leaves little doubt about the political party's roots. A small cross hangs over the door, a wooden bust of the Virgin Mary on one wall, a portait of a bearded Christ and a nationalist Christian calendar on another.
Hrušovský, 50, took over the leadership of the ruling coalition Christian Democrats party (KDH) in 2000, after the party had spent a decade under former dissident Ján Čarnogurský. The quiet-spoken lawyer has healed a break in the party between its more conservative forces and a wing leaning to merger with Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's SDKÚ party, and has returned the KDH to some of its more traditional positions - anti-abortion, pro-Slovak, law and order.


KDH CHAIRMAN Pavol Hrušovský says Slovakia must find a "new political culture".
photo: TASR

THE FOYER of Pavol Hrušovský's office with the Christian Democrats leaves little doubt about the political party's roots. A small cross hangs over the door, a wooden bust of the Virgin Mary on one wall, a portait of a bearded Christ and a nationalist Christian calendar on another.

Hrušovský, 50, took over the leadership of the ruling coalition Christian Democrats party (KDH) in 2000, after the party had spent a decade under former dissident Ján Čarnogurský. The quiet-spoken lawyer has healed a break in the party between its more conservative forces and a wing leaning to merger with Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's SDKÚ party, and has returned the KDH to some of its more traditional positions - anti-abortion, pro-Slovak, law and order.

Running at below 10 per cent in the polls, the KDH is seen as a key pillar of any right-wing government that might be formed after September elections. And while the voters who support the Christian Democrats share many characteristics with backers of Vladimír Mečiar's opposition HZDS party - they tend to be older and more rural, according to demographic studies - Hrušovský rules out any post-election cooperation with Mečiar and the current opposition.

The Slovak Spectator spoke to the KDH Chairman on August 13.


The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Former KDH leader Ján Čarnogurský said in the spring of this year that Jozef Tiso, leader of the Slovak fascist 1939-1945 state, had come adrift through "moral compromises", including sending about 70,000 Slovak Jews to their deaths. Why is it still so hard for the KDH to deal with Slovakia's past, and to denounce Tiso for what he was?

Pavol Hrušovský (PH): The KDH has more of a problem dealing with the communist past than the second world war period. I wouldn't like to compare opinions with Mr Čarnogurský or any other KDH representative regarding the second world war. We are sorry we haven't managed to deal with the communist past, although that is also thanks to Mr President [Rudolf Schuster, a former top communist official who recently returned three anti-communist laws to parliament - ed. note].

František Mikloško of the KDH in 1987 proposed the document "Apology to Slovak Jews", and Ján Čarnogurský was among the first Slovak personalities to sign it. But I wouldn't now want to open themes that are not of priority importance for the KDH.


TSS: There are many who would consider the Holocaust and the second world war period a very important and sensitive topic. Does the KDH feel itself to be some sort of successor to the HSĽS 'People's Party' which ruled Slovakia during the war, and of whose parliamentary faction Ján Čarnogurský's father was a member?

PH: I don't think we should look for any personal connections in the creation of the KDH after [the fall of communism in] November 1989. Although Mr Čarnogurský stood at the head of a party which ideologically corresponds to the original HSĽS, in terms of advocating Christian values in society, it's impossible to draw any analogy between the HSĽS and KDH, which were active in historically different times. The KDH is a modern, conservative people's party based on Christian principles.


TSS: Do you think that Čarnogurský's description of Tiso's acts as 'moral compromises' is an adequate description of what happened in Slovakia to Jews during the war?

PH: I don't want to comment on the statements of Mr Čarnogurský. Let's not try to look for links between either Čarnogurský or the KDH and a period that still provokes a lot of questions and controversy.


TSS: Many other KDH statements have been criticised as being out of step with modern medical and human rights principles, in particular the assertion of a party MP that homosexuality is a curable disease. Is there a danger that in representing the conservative views of your electorate, the KDH could increase social tensions?

PH: I don't think this theme could increase social tensions. There are many more serious problems than solving the issue of homosexual partnerships or the position of homosexuals in society. I don't think that this issue should become a source of controversy.


TSS: As long as you're not homosexual.

PH: We really have experts for this problem. One of our top experts is doctor Alojz Rakús, the head of the Slovak Psychiatrists Association [and the MP who made the above statement - ed. note]. Based on scientific knowledge and practical experience with people who suffer from, as he presented it, the illness of homosexuality, which can be treated, he expressed the opinion of the KDH.

We aren't in favour of discrimination, but one thing for us is unacceptable - to put homosexual partnerships on the level of a standard relationship between two heterosexual individuals with all the rights and duties of a family unit.


TSS: How does your law and order programme differ from that of the Smer party?

PH: We approach these problems more responsibly. Robert Fico and Smer offer solutions which sometimes verge on populism.


TSS: Such as the law Fico wants to have passed that would require 'suspiciously rich' people to prove the origin of their property?

PH: Everything. Everything that Fico offers and interprets as very easy solutions. I'm convinced that he is only doing this through lack of experience.

We realise how difficult and complex a task it is to guarantee citizens security and freedom from corruption and clientelism. The KDH will suggest after elections that the parties of the next government agree not to fight between each other when it comes to issues like security, clientelism and corruption.


TSS: Former Bratislava Mayor Peter Kresánek, who was elected for the KDH, admitted in a recent interview that the Bratislava city council had provided political parties with cheap accommodation back in the 1990s. The Žabotova building in which we are now sitting was sold by the city to the Maana company, which is owned by Peter Gabura, who financed the KDH and remains a party member. Maana got the building for Sk14 million, even though real estate experts put its value at between Sk70 and Sk80 million. Kresánek even changed the sale contract without telling city council to give Maana an extra six years to pay. A man who sits on Maana's board of directors with Gabura is running in one of the KDH's top spots for elections. What should people think of the KDH's commitment to fighting corruption when it seems to endorse such tactics? Why should political parties be given different treatment by city council than common citizens?

PH: I don't know who you mean, but none of the representatives who have any interest in the property or who would give any advantage to the KDH are on the candidates list.


TSS: Pavol Abrhan, a member of the board of directors of Maana along with Gabura and party central secretary Martin Šrank, is at number 11 on the list.

PH: Pavol Abrhan is a member of one of the organs of the Maana company, something which is absolutely normal, and it's not necessary to link this to an ownership relationship to a company which owns the Žabotova building.

The owner is Maana company, which in turn is owned by Peter Gabura and his son. The company organs are not linked through ownership to the building, and I don't see any problem in this that should lead to suspicions that our candidates should be linked to this company.


TSS: Abrhan works for a company which owns the KDH building, which was bought by a KDH member at a bargain price with the help of a KDH city mayor.

PH: Mr Abrhan doesn't work there. He is an employee of the KDH. He is only a member of the company organs, and according to my information he doesn't receive any compensation.


TSS: If Abrhan's role at Maana isn't a link to the firm's owners, then what would you call it?

PH: A company's organs are one thing and ownership of a company is another thing.


TSS: Is there really nothing suspicious in the fact the KDH got its present premises cheap from Kresánek, who was mayor of Bratislava for the KDH?

PH: Kresánek took the mayor's seat as a member of the KDH and was proposed as a coalition candidate. I'm convinced that as the first non-communist candidate after 1989, he did a lot of positive things for Bratislava and Bratislavans.


TSS: He sold the Žabotova building - at that time city property - to Maana at the end of 1996 after the deal was agreed in the city council, but then on his own changed the contract twice to give Maana more time to pay the Sk14 million. It's a five-storey building next to the main train station, and could have fetched five times what Maana paid. Maybe the KDH directly did not have fingers in the deal, but Gabura, the owner of the building, was and is a member of the KDH, Kresánek was KDH, and the party which is based here now is the KDH. Which brings us back to the original question - why should parties, not just the KDH but also others in the capital, get preferential treatment? How can anyone take politicians' statements on corruption seriously?

PH: It's just as you said. Not the mayor alone but the city council decided on the sale of the Žabotova building. I'm happy that you opened the question, but I've always wondered why only the KDH has been the target of accusations that it got its building under advantageous conditions. The same goes for the Democratic Party, the Democratic Union, and the SDĽ [Democratic Left Party].

It's not important now. Many have tried to cast doubt [on the KDH's building] and I'm convinced that the goal was to attack the party. We have witnessed many attempts to discredit the KDH. Investigations carried out by the city authorities and other state organs showed no breach of law had taken place.

We have dealt with this problem. Mr Gabura today is not a member of any KDH organ, nor is he on the KDH's candidates list. He's a private entrepreneur, and the KDH today conducts itself so as to avoid any suspicion that the party is connected to either Gabura or any other businesses.


TSS: Was there any agreement among the five parties that formed the SDK coalition before 1998 elections that the parties would return to their original identities after elections?

PH: A verbal agreement existed, and said that no barriers would be raised if any party decided to return to its original form.


TSS: PM Mikuláš Dzurinda said in an interview for this paper that "everybody who says the agreement existed is lying".

PH: I say to Mikuláš Dzurinda that anyone who says that is not telling the truth.


TSS: Have disputes between the KDH and SDKÚ over the last four years damaged your relationship beyond the point of working together in the future?

PH: We have indeed had different opinions on many issues, but the misunderstandings were not so intense as to prevent co-operation between the parties or their representatives after the elections. Long before thinking about how the new cabinet would look, the KDH launched an initiative to form a right wing cabinet, which we think would be a good solution for Slovakia. Today we consider right wing parties to be the SMK [ethnic Hungarian party], the KDH and SDKÚ.


TSS: Is Ano one of the right wing parties that you would be willing to work with after the elections?

PH: The KDH is in favour of a stable cabinet. A right wing cabinet is a priority. Today's polls, however, show that it will not be possible to create an exclusively right wing government. As the KDH rejects cooperation with the HZDS and SNS [opposition parties], the only other parties that can be considered for a [coalition] agreement are [non-parliamentary] Smer and Ano. The KDH sees Ano as more right wing than Smer, and therefore we prefer this party. That doesn't mean that in the interest of stable and peaceful political development the KDH would not be prepared to work with other parties.


TSS: What about the HZD [splinter from Mečiar's HZDS]?

PH: At this moment I am reserved about the HZD. Let's not be influenced by the public opinion that so far has been shown in only two surveys [giving the HZD about seven per cent, more than enough support to enter parliament - ed. note]. I think, however, that it will not be necessary to co-operate with this party after the elections in order to create a stable cabinet.


TSS: If we define the Mečiar years as "isolation", the Dzurinda government as "a return to the civilized world", what will the next cabinet be about?

PH: Stability, peace, a new political culture, integration into transatlantic and European structures, a completely new position for the Slovak Republic in integrated Europe, and in globalization as a whole, where Slovakia will have to prove its ability to be autonomous, independent and sovereign.

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