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THESE 16 MEN WILL BE SHAPING THE FUTURE OF SLOVAKIA OVER THE NEXT FOUR YEARS.

Introducing the cabinet

The Long-Distance Runner
MIKULÁŠ DZURINDA
(SDKÚ), 47
Prime Minister
Experience:
A former vice-chairman of the Christian Democratic Party (KDH), Dzurinda headed the Transportation Ministry in 1994. In 1997 he became the spokesperson, and later leader, of the Democratic Coalition Party (SDK). Following disputes with founding members of the SDK, Dzurinda established the SDKÚ as an independent party in 2000 and has been party boss ever since.



The Long-Distance Runner

MIKULÁŠ DZURINDA
(SDKÚ), 47
Prime Minister

Experience:

A former vice-chairman of the Christian Democratic Party (KDH), Dzurinda headed the Transportation Ministry in 1994. In 1997 he became the spokesperson, and later leader, of the Democratic Coalition Party (SDK). Following disputes with founding members of the SDK, Dzurinda established the SDKÚ as an independent party in 2000 and has been party boss ever since.

Reputation:

A veteran of several dozen marathons, Dzurinda likes to call himself a "long-distance runner", promoting an image of gritty reliability. In his political career, however, he allegedly broke a 1998 pre-election agreement between the SDK founding parties which cost him the trust of some of his partners. Additionally, he almost destroyed the KDH when he left it, which along with a slew of corruption scandals during his first administration does not add to his credibility. However, all coalition party leaders say they respect the 2002 election results, which made the SDKÚ by far the strongest coalition party and gave Dzurinda the right to the PM's chair. The fast pace at which coalition negotiations were completed is also seen as an indicator of trust among the parties.

What to watch out for:

The coalition parties are determined to push through decisive reforms, and this will require firm and decisive leadership. Dzurinda may not have the strength to fulfil that role. Past experience shows that he is only too willing to compromise and run from reforms when there's any risk he might antagonise coalition partners.




The Good Guy

PÁL CSÁKY
(SMK), 46
Deputy Prime Minister

Experience:

The founding member of the Hungarian Christian Democratic Party (MKDH) first entered parliament in 1990. After the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) was established in 1998, Csáky became its deputy chairman, and from that year onward he also held the position of Deputy PM for Human Rights, Minorities and Regional Development in Dzurinda's first government.

Reputation:

He is one of the SMK representatives who receives the most coverage in the Slovak media, where he presents the image of a moderate, calm and friendly politician. In the last government Csáky had the advantage of not heading a specific ministry, so he was less likely than others to destroy his positive image. As Deputy PM he was responsible for the Roma issue, an area where observers say insufficient progress has been achieved in the past four years.

What to watch out for:

With the Roma question off his hands, Csáky will be free to further build his positive image, which could, in four years, finally bring the SMK more votes from ethnic Slovaks. It remains to be seen what Csáky will actually do in the next government, as he is the only Deputy PM without a ministry, while his ability to represent interests wider than just those of the Hungarian minority will also be tested.




The Ambassador

EDUARD KUKAN
(SDKÚ), 64
Foreign Affairs Minister

Experience:

Kukan studied international relations in Moscow and began his career as a diplomat in 1964. From 1990 to 1994 he was the last Czechoslovak and first Slovak envoy to the UN. In 1994 he headed the Foreign Ministry in Jozef Moravčík's six-month government. Kukan spent the following four years in parliament, returning to the Foreign Ministry in 1998. In 1997 Kukan was elected chair of the Democratic Union (DÚ), which in 2000 merged with Dzurinda's SDKÚ, of which Kukan is now vice-chairman.

Reputation:

Because of Slovakia's success in the international arena, no one has had reason to publicly attack Kukan. This may also have something to do with the fact that an attack on him could be perceived as an attack on the country's ambitions for EU integration.

What to watch out for:

In the last four years Slovakia has had to prove it is prepared for Nato and EU membership, and it has had to please decision-makers in both institutions. That situation will soon change, and Slovakia will soon have to participate in decisions of global importance. The question remains whether Kukan can transform Slovakia from a silent observer into an active independent force.




The Pragmatist

IVAN MIKLOŠ
(SDKÚ), 42
Finance Minister

Experience:

In 1991 and 1992 Mikloš was Privatisation Minister. From 1992 to 1993 he was first vice-chairman of the Civic Democratic Union (ODÚ) and for the next seven years he was a member of the Democratic Party (DS), of which he was briefly boss. In 1998 he was offered the job of vice-president of the New York-based East-West Institute, but turned it down to become Deputy PM for the Economy.

Reputation:

For many, Mikloš has been a symbol of reform in the government. This has changed recently, as the economic expert's involvement in politics has forced him to be ever more open to compromise, much like Dzurinda. Mikloš has a very close relationship not only with Dzurinda, but also with Social Affairs Minister Ľudovít Kaník, through whom he can be expected to wield great influence over pension and social benefits reform. Given the amount of money flowing through these sectors, Mikloš will be in the front line of the fight against corruption.

What to watch out for:

Mikloš may be hesitant to support too radical reforms that could create social tension and make him an unpopular figure.




The Hotshot

DANIEL LIPŠIC
(KDH), 29
Justice Minister

Experience:

Lipšic has a degree from Harvard Law School. In 1998 he became head of office at the Justice Ministry. The KDH vice-chairman left the post this year, when a new law on state service came into effect, prohibiting party membership of heads of ministerial offices. Before joining the KDH Lipšic headed the Civic Democratic youth organisation.

Reputation:

Lipšic is the youngest minister in Slovak history. When he was head of office at the Justice Ministry, critics charged that he didn't have the necessary experience to work in the legal field and thus didn't understand the needs and problems of the profession. Such criticism may not stick now, as he is returning to known territory.

What to watch out for:

With the fight against corruption and for higher efficiency in the judiciary now top priorities, Lipšic faces resistance from certain judges and interest groups. Lipšic's young age and relative lack of experience may prove to be weaknesses in what could be a tough battle.




The Workhorse

IVAN ŠIMKO
(SDKÚ), 47
Defence Minister

Experience:

Šimko, who has university degrees in economy and law, has vast experience in governmental work. In 1992 he became Justice Minister, and in 1994 he was briefly Deputy PM, returning to office as Interior Minister in 2001. Between 1990 and 1992, and again from 1994 to 2001, Šimko was a member of parliament. His political career started in the KDH, which he left with Dzurinda's group in 2000. Since then, he has served as SDKÚ general secretary.

Reputation:

From the early days of the SDK Šimko has been loyal to Dzurinda and was one of the SDK's more popular figures. Nevertheless, he had to wait until 2001 to get a governmental post, perhaps because he is less polished than many of his political colleagues in the SDKÚ.

What to watch out for:

Šimko is one of Dzurinda's possible replacements as head of the SDKÚ. If Dzurinda becomes unpopular as a result of the reforms and loses his position within the party, Šimko could find himself in charge. Such a move is more likely now than before, as the country's army will become part of Nato under his leadership, thus raising his profile.




The Hard-Liner

VLADIMÍR PALKO
(KDH), 45
Interior Minister

Experience:

In 1991 and 1992 Palko acted as the deputy director of the Czechoslovak Federal Security Intelligence Service. He headed the parliamentary Security and Defence Committee and was a member of the secret service supervisory committee during the last four years. He is one of the founding members of the KDH and has been deputy chairman since 1996.

Reputation:

Palko displays very little emotion, which makes him an excellent negotiator. He belongs to the fundamentalist wing of the KDH, which has become stronger since Dzurinda's liberal group left the party. He has strongly criticised former top state officials who in his opinion broke the law, and he seems determined to act decisively against crime. Debates on topics such as the introduction of yoga in schools, the rights of homosexuals and other minority groups have shown that Palko lacks tolerance for views that contradict his own.

What to watch out for:

After EU accession Slovakia will need to guard its eastern border with the Ukraine, which will become the new border of the EU. That job falls to Palko's ministry, and will prove crucial to Slovakia's relations with the EU in the early years after entry. Experts say the KDH has traditionally wanted to control key 'power' ministries such as defense, the interior and justice in order to rout out anyone left connected with the pre-1989 communist regime. Personnel decisions Palko makes in the police headquarters could also prove crucial.




The Plodder

LÁSZLÓ MIKLÓS
(SMK), 53
Environment Minister

Experience:

Miklós has a degree in regional geography. For 17 years he worked at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, and in 1990 he started working at the Slovak Environment Commission. He has been Environment Minister for the last four years.

Reputation:

Despite serving in government for the last four years, few people know Miklós's name or recognise his face. Nevertheless, he has been busy. An enormous amount of legislation had to be prepared and approved in the field of environmental protection over the last four years, and the process seems to have gone well.

What to watch out for:

Miklós will probably continue to govern the ministry in the same quiet manner he has employed for the last four years. Slovakia will have to start applying all the recently approved legislation, which may cause some problems, so the Slovak public may yet learn Miklós's name.




The Dark Horse

LÁSZLÓ GYUROVSZKY
(SMK), 42
Minister of regional development and construction

Experience:

This SMK vice-chairman has not held any governmental or top political posts so far. He has a degree in electrical engineering.

Reputation:

Gyurovsky has been a critic of left-wing parties in the past, but he does not have a radical image.

What to watch out for:

Any ethnic Hungarian politician has to be ready to face accusations of favouring minority interests, but that is particularly true of the Minister for Regional Development. European funds for regional development are also going to be administered by the ministry, so Gyurovsky will be under the spotlight.




The Man of Letters

RUDOLF CHMEL
(Ano), 63
Culture Minister

Experience:

Between 1990 and 1992 Chmel was the last Czechoslovak ambassador to Hungary. Before taking office, he worked in the Slovak Academy of Sciences as a literary scientist. He has written many books and plays. Chmel has served as president of the New York-based Open Society Foundation in Slovakia, and as Ano shadow minister of foreign affairs.

Reputation:

His literary work is widely respected, and no members of the cultural community seem to object too much to him.

What to watch out for:

Chmel is a representative of Pavol Rusko's upstart Ano party. Rusko was co-owner of the private Markíza television station, a post he abused for political purposes. By controlling the Culture Ministry, which to some extent controls the media, Ano may simply change the rules instead of breaking them. Even before taking office, Chmel became involved in a debate on Roma issues, for which his ministry may become responsible - a proposal that surprised many, including Chmel.




The Player

ĽUDOVÍT KANÍK
(SDKÚ), 37
Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family

Experience:

Kaník has a fair amount of experience in state administration. He headed the small privatisation and auction department at the Privatisation Ministry from 1990 to 1991. In 1998 and 1999 he was the president of the National Property Fund but was forced out by Dzurinda, with whom he had very bad relations at the time. Kaník became chairman of the Democratic Party (DS) at the beginning of 2001.

Reputation:

After Kaník became DS boss a large group of influential members left the party and started the Civic Conservative Party (OKS), accusing Kaník of being in politics only for personal profit. Only a few days before parliamentary elections this year, Kaník announced in a television debate, not discussing the move with other party members beforehand, that the DS would not run in the elections. He recommended that DS supporters, amounting to around two per cent of the population, vote for the SDKÚ. This helped the SDKÚ gain more votes than Fico's Smer and helped Kaník get the ministerial seat as a nominee for the SDKÚ.

What to watch out for:

It will be interesting to see how Kaník manages the dual role of DS chairman and minister for the SDKÚ. Some see this situation as the beginning of the end for the DS, which may be the next victim of SDKÚ's efforts to integrate the right-wing political spectrum.




The Headmaster

MARTIN FRONC
(KDH), 55
Education Minister

Experience:

Fronc was Deputy Minister at the Education Ministry under the first Dzurinda administration.

Reputation:

Considered an expert in the field, Fronc did not get along well with his former boss, Peter Ponický, the last Education Minister.

What to watch out for:

Because of the KDH's generally conservative approach, Slovaks may well start to see more of a Christian influence in their schools. Religious schools are going to be given the same state support as other public schools. Groups fighting for the rights of homosexuals are worried that their efforts to create an atmosphere of acceptance in society may be ruined by the KDH taking over control of this ministry. Given the KDH's strong opposition to the communist regime, secondary schools may finally get new books on recent Slovak history.




The Maverick

RUDOLF ZAJAC
(Ano), 51
Health Care Minister

Experience:

Zajac, who graduated from the Faculty of Medicine in Bratislava, started doing business in the medical field after the fall of the communist regime. He was a member of the Democratic Party (DS), which he left when Ľudovít Kaník, his governmental colleague heading the Social Affairs Ministry, became party boss. Zajac started his cooperation with Ano a year ago.

Reputation:

Zajac is not an Ano member. After leaving the DS Zajac said he would work for any party that would give him the opportunity of realising his planned reforms. Ano party boss Rusko was first. Zajac has been very critical of the health care system and has called Slovak hospitals "socialist car repair shops".

What to watch out for:

The current situation in the health care sector is advantageous for many who profit from corruption, and strong opposition may be expected to reforms. Changes will most likely be unpopular with the public as well and Zajac may need political support, which, as an independent minister, he may not get.




The Newcomer

ZSOLT SIMON
(SMK), 32
Agriculture Minister

Experience:

Simon is a businessman from Rimavská Sobota. He is completely new to the world of politics.

Reputation:

None whatsoever.

What to watch out for:

The SMK has long been interested in this ministry, because of its preoccupation with the transfer of land whose owners cannot be identified. Many of these tracts are located in the south, where municipalities are controlled by Hungarian representatives. Under the new coalition deal, the lands will not only be administered, but owned by the municipalities.




The Henchman

PAVOL PROKOPOVIČ
(SDKÚ), 47
Transportation, Post and Telecommunications Minister

Experience:

Prokopovič became a businessman in 1990, and later served as a tax advisor. In 1995 he founded the Union of Traders, Entrepreneurs and Farmers political party, which he also headed. It merged with the SDKÚ in 2000. He has been a member of parliament for the last four years, but has no direct experience in the field of transportation, post and telecommunications.

Reputation:

Experts say Prokopovič is under the strong influence of former Transportation Minister and SDKÚ treasurer Gabriel Palacka, and is loyal to Prime Minister Dzurinda. So far, he has kept a low profile.

What to watch out for:

Two previous ministers, both representatives of the SDKÚ, had to leave this ministry after corruption scandals. The ministry will have to make some key decisions in the next four years, so pressure from interests groups will be strong.




The Wild Card

ROBERT NEMCSICS
(Ano), 41
Economy Minister

Experience:

Under Vladimír Mečiar's third government (1994-1998) Nemcsics was head of office at the Finance Ministry. He was also director of marketing and PR at the Bratislava branch of Volkswagen, and he served as marketing director at the Rock FM radio station.

Reputation:

Nemcsics is another relatively unknown figure, who was seen very little during Ano's pre-election campaign.

What to watch out for:

The powers of the abolished Privatisation Ministry will now fall under the Economy Ministry, and the coalition is making no secrets about plans to continue with the privatisation of the remaining property in state hands. The sell-off process is likely to be surrounded by controversy.

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