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HZDS: All ages rally with mixed feelings

SENEC - PEOPLE of all ages, not just the grey-haired supporters the party is famous for, came out to hear members of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party denounce the Mikuláš Dzurinda government in west Slovakia's Senec on September 6.
Most of the speakers' arrows were aimed at the current government's economic policies, which the HZDS says have caused the nation's 18 per cent unemployment rate and have brought hardship on many families.
"It's impossible to accept [Deputy PM for Economy Ivan] Mikloš's thesis that we shouldn't produce groceries if we can import them cheaply. This is nonsense," said former Finance Minister Sergej Kozlík.


THE HZDS campaign has been a shadow of previous excesses.
photo: TASR

SENEC - PEOPLE of all ages, not just the grey-haired supporters the party is famous for, came out to hear members of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party denounce the Mikuláš Dzurinda government in west Slovakia's Senec on September 6.

Most of the speakers' arrows were aimed at the current government's economic policies, which the HZDS says have caused the nation's 18 per cent unemployment rate and have brought hardship on many families.

"It's impossible to accept [Deputy PM for Economy Ivan] Mikloš's thesis that we shouldn't produce groceries if we can import them cheaply. This is nonsense," said former Finance Minister Sergej Kozlík.

"Unfortunately, I keep hearing people say 'We are not doing well, and we'll help you to get back into government so our lives improve'," said Katarína Tóthová, a former deputy PM in the 1994-1998 Vladimír Mečiar administration, speaking to The Slovak Spectator after the rally.

The HZDS, which despite a recent tumble in the polls stands a strong chance of winning September 20-21 elections, has dominated political life in Slovakia since its founding in 1991.

However, party leader Mečiar has been ostracised by Western governments and domestic political parties for his authoritarian policies while in power in the mid-1990s.

The West has even said Slovakia has no chance of being accepted to Nato this fall if Mečiar returns to power.

Signs of how much the nation remains divided over Mečiar were visible in the 250-strong Senec crowd as well.

"I hate them, because they blame everything on Hungarians," said Margita, 60, who is an ethnic Hungarian.

"I came here because of the attractions and because it's fun for my children, not to see the party," said a 36-year-old lady who declined to give her name.

Paľo and Natalia, 27, said they had come to "relax and listen to these thieves".

Party sympathisers and critics alike enjoyed free stew, lemonade and beer.

Much of what the HZDS members said, while neither concrete nor verifiable, brought murmurs of agreement from the crowd.

Kozlík, one of 12 HZDS members of parliament at the meeting, complained that while the "HZDS has the best and the most experts, even other parties admit that," it had been isolated in the media.

"He's right. They really have been repressed in the media," said Marián, 50, while sipping a lemonade.

However, the rally had many lighter moments as well, some verging on kitsch.

When asked how he intended to reduce unemployment, Kozlík saluted his questioner, drawing a laugh from some and rolled eyes from others.

A little girl was brought on stage at the end of the meeting to deliver a wish to MPs: "I hope you win. My daddy, mummy and granny will vote for you."

The rally ended with fireworks, but the music continued until late evening. One of those who stayed was Dušan, 27.

"I voted for the HZDS as a first-time voter, and the second time as well, and I will vote for them now. I was better off when they were in government, there were more jobs, and highways were being built. The HZDS never disappointed me, and that's why I'm going to vote for them.

"There are some things I would like to ask Mečiar, but I don't want my vote to go to Dzurinda," he added.

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