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Who is the KDH: Anti-communists returning to fundamentalist roots

THE RULING CHRISTIAN Democratic Movement (KDH), led by Pavol Hrušovský, has since 2000 embraced a conservative right-wing doctrine twinned with a return to the party's roots - passionate opposition to communism.
Following a power struggle two years ago between pragmatists and fundamentalists in the KDH, and the resulting departure of the party's more liberal politicians, the KDH's ranks are now filled with long-time faithful, many of whom have been active in local government. The party also maintains a keen interest in security - a relic, says political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov, of the KDH's historic opposition to communism.
"The KDH is a clearly a party opposed to communism, to the communist regime and to the people who were involved in it," said Mesežnikov, head of the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) think tank.

THE RULING CHRISTIAN Democratic Movement (KDH), led by Pavol Hrušovský, has since 2000 embraced a conservative right-wing doctrine twinned with a return to the party's roots - passionate opposition to communism.

Following a power struggle two years ago between pragmatists and fundamentalists in the KDH, and the resulting departure of the party's more liberal politicians, the KDH's ranks are now filled with long-time faithful, many of whom have been active in local government. The party also maintains a keen interest in security - a relic, says political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov, of the KDH's historic opposition to communism.

"The KDH is a clearly a party opposed to communism, to the communist regime and to the people who were involved in it," said Mesežnikov, head of the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) think tank.

"This has been one of the main issues for the KDH since [its founding in] 1990, and one on which the party has become even tougher recently."

Critics have often seen something unhealthy in the KDH's security obsession. In 1998, for example, former Slovak secret service (SIS) director Ivan Lexa accused the KDH of controlling the country's police and intelligence services.

The party indeed has a long record of involvement with the SIS and its supervisory body, the Interior Ministry. Of the three different Slovak governments the KDH has joined since 1989, it has held the Interior Ministry post in all of them. No other chair has been so consistently demanded by the KDH when in power.

The KDH's most recent Interior Minister, the ousted Ladislav Pittner, has twice appointed Vladimír Mitro as SIS director - once in the early 1990s and then again in 1998.

Vladimír Palko, running at number three on the KDH's candidate list for September 2002 elections, before 1993 was deputy director of the Czechoslovak secret service, and now both heads the parliamentary defence committee and sits on the special committee supervising the SIS.

Ján Mojžiš, former deputy chairman of the KDH's youth wing, in 1998 entered the SIS and is now head of the National Security Bureau, which is responsible for running security checks on state officials ahead of possible Nato membership.

Paired with the Justice Ministry, where former KDH Chairman Ján Čarnogurský has held the top post since 1998, the KDH has always shown a strong appetite for what are known in Slovakia as the two 'power ministries'.

"The KDH's interest in the power ministries has been continuous. It has always been a trend, but they have been paying increased attention to it," said Mesežnikov. "The party clearly feels these services should be rid of the dirt of the past - from both the communist and the [1994-1998 PM Vladimír] Mečiar era."

"The communist regime used its ability to influence society most through organs of power such as the security forces, army, courts and police," said KDH leader Hrušovský in an interview with The Slovak Spectator.

"These are sectors which can greatly influence basic human rights. From the beginning we wanted Slovak society to develop towards justice, and to guarantee security, stability and safety for all citizens."

The KDH was established in February 1990 by Čarnogurský following the fall of communism in November 1989. After playing a major role in Slovak politics in the 1990s, the party joined the SDK umbrella coalition led by current PM Mikuláš Dzurinda in 1998 with the aim of ousting authoritarian Slovak leader Mečiar.

However, after joining the Dzurinda government in October 1998, the party struggled to survive, facing down a bid by Dzurinda to lure core KDH members to his SDKÚ party ticket in 2000.

The exodus of KDH members to join Dzurinda ironically left the Christian Democrats more compact and unified, said Mesežnikov, and far better equipped to fight 2002 elections.

"After the liberals and the pragmatists left the party, the internal cohesion of the KDH increased and members began to show greater loyalty. The strength of conservative elements increased, and with that an inclination towards nationalist rhetoric.

"I don't want to call it fundamentalism exactly, although there are elements of that," the analyst added.

The KDH's candidate list is headed by Hrušovský, who has been in politics since becoming an MP in 1989. Ján Figeľ, candidate number two and since 1998 Slovakia's chief EU entry negotiator, is the KDH's vice-chair for foreign relations. Under his lead Slovakia has managed to catch up with neighbouring countries in the entry process despite a two-year handicap.

Figeľ in 2000 ran for the party chairmanship but lost to Hrušovský, who had Čarnogurský's support. While many expected the partnership between the two men to be difficult following the vote, Figeľ has both publicly and privately backed Hrušovský.

Candidate number five is Július Brocka, an MP and the KDH's deputy chair for economy. After being elected to the Slovak parliament in KDH colours in 1990, he later served as Labour Minister in Jozef Moravčík's short-lived government in 1994.

At number seven is František Mikloško, former speaker of parliament and current head of the KDH caucus. Mikloško's ties with former KDH boss Čarnogurský and Christian anti-communist activists have always been strong.

In March 1988 Mikloško and Čarnogurský organised a meeting of Christians in Bratislava attended by over 10,000 people but dispersed brutally by the communist police. In 2002 Mikloško won a literary award for a book on communist crimes during the 1948-1989 period.

Other top KDH candidates - Deputy Education Minister Martin Fronc (8), MP Mária Záborská (9), KDH director for regional policy Pavol Abrhan (11) and Andrej Hajduk (13) have all been KDH members from the party's beginning.

Of the two young faces on the candidate list, Daniel Lipšic at number six is former head of office at the Justice Ministry. Lipšic left the ministry in March 2002 when a new State Service Law prohibited party members from holding high state office.

The 29-year-old lawyer, who chose KDH membership over staying in office, has been a fierce advocate of the rule of law in Slovakia.

Along with the 29-year-old Peter Muránsky, former deputy head of the Slovak Christian Democratic Youth, Lipšic has frequently opposed former top communists who remain active in Slovak public life, including President Rudolf Schuster.

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