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Ano: Non-supporters "will be sorry"

MARTIN - BEFORE the secretary of the non-parliamentary New Citizen's Alliance (Ano) party, Jozef Banáš, left his house to join the party's election campaign in Martin on September 6, his wife reportedly asked him: "Are you going to bother the people again?"
"Once I decide to walk the political path with my friends, we will fight to create a power that will help this country," Banáš, 53, claimed to have replied.
By his 'friends', Banáš meant largely Ano leader Pavol Rusko, 38. Rusko's success as the founder of the country's most popular TV station, Markíza, has attracted many young voters to the party since its founding last year.


THE FUNNY and popular Pročko of Markíza working the kids at an Ano rally.
photo: Zuzana Habšudová

MARTIN - BEFORE the secretary of the non-parliamentary New Citizen's Alliance (Ano) party, Jozef Banáš, left his house to join the party's election campaign in Martin on September 6, his wife reportedly asked him: "Are you going to bother the people again?"

"Once I decide to walk the political path with my friends, we will fight to create a power that will help this country," Banáš, 53, claimed to have replied.

By his 'friends', Banáš meant largely Ano leader Pavol Rusko, 38. Rusko's success as the founder of the country's most popular TV station, Markíza, has attracted many young voters to the party since its founding last year.

Rusko's ownership of the station, meanwhile, has also brought charges that he is abusing his media power to promote his party.

Nevertheless, despite doubts as to its political orientation, Ano appears likely to capture the five per cent support needed to enter the Slovak parliament.

Two teams of Ano leaders have been meeting citizens every day at five or six places across the country since the election campaign began last month, the party says.

While the first team takes the stage with Markíza comedian Jožo Pročko and folk singer Robo Kazík in larger cities, the second team travels the smaller towns and villages by bus.

Those who gathered for the Ano rally in Martin were largely mothers with baby carriages, children and older people. Several bicyclists and roller-bladders also stopped by for a while. The reason they all stayed, though, was not the speeches by Ano members but the campaign's opening show with Pročko.

"We came here only because of Pročko," said a woman, 49, who was accompanied by her daughter and granddaughter. "Rusko and his party don't interest me at all."

Her daughter, a first-time voter who says she has still not decided whom she will vote for, added that she likes Rusko, "but only because he's handsome, not because of his politics".

An older couple in their mid-60s admitted that they also had come merely to see Pročko, who "is very funny".

The funny and popular Pročko sang several versions of Ano's pre-election anthem with the rally's youngest visitors: "Maybe it isn't time to hang ourselves yet [because of the situation in the country], maybe someone still cares..."

Apart from gifts handed out by Pročko to the youngest rally-goers - Ano T-shirts and balloons - the rally featured none of the free goulash, beer or sausages that have become a staple of Slovak electioneering.

Despite Pročko's popularity, the rally attracted no more than 150 people, more than half of whom departed before the Ano leaders appeared on stage.

Ano representatives Banáš and Branislav Opaterný first shared personal stories with the audience on why they had entered politics. They said they had spent some time working abroad, and said the number of young people that had left the country since Slovakia was formed in 1993 had persuaded them to do something.

A public debate followed about the party's plans to change the current "desperate situation into a better one".

Asked how they planned to solve corruption in the country's courts, Banáš answered: "If I was to be flippant, I would nominate Mr. Fico [head of the non-parliamentary Smer party] as Justice Minister."

Banáš left saying: "You don't have to vote for us, but we'll do everything to make you feel sorry later that you didn't."

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