ON December 6 and 7, Slovak voters will go to the polls to elect mayors and local council members in 136 cities and more than 2,700 villages.
The following men are the most prominent mayoral candidates in the eastern cities of Košice and Prešov.
Divisions on the right open door for left
Zdenko Trebuľa (47), ANO, Smer, SMK, SDA
Current mayor Trebuľa is an attorney with a colourful political past. He joined the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1979 and remained a member until the party transformed itself in 1990. In 1998 he joined Rudolf Schuster's Civic Understanding Party (SOP), where he was one of the top officials.
In this year's parliamentary elections Trebuľa was one of the leaders of the Social Democratic Alternative (SDA). If he is elected in the municipal elections, it will be one of the first major victories for the newly formed party.
Trebuľa, who has been mayor of Košice since 1999, is criticised by right-wing parties for not dealing with the city's large debt.
"No systemic solutions have been presented to deal with this problem. I think there are also other ways, which have so far not been discovered and a change of mayors could help," said Daniel Rusnák, head of the Democratic Party (DS) local organisation in one of Košice's districts.
Trebuľa's chances are enhanced by the decision of other large parties not to take joint action.
Ľuboš Pastor (33), SDKÚ, OKS
In Košice, the political right is fielding two candidates, which some say is a recipe for failure.
"Of course it would be much better if the right was united [in Košice], but it has not happened in Bratislava, Banská Bystrica, Prešov or any other important city," said Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) candidate Pastor.
Many blame Pastor, the youngest-ever head of the office in charge of Košice's surrounding district - which, with 111 villages and two cities, is Slovakia's largest - for the current situation. Even the DS, with whom the SDKÚ has an agreement on election cooperation at a national level, failed to reach a deal with the party.
"The DS does not support the SDKÚ candidate, because he doesn't have the qualities needed to be a candidate for mayor in Slovakia's second-largest city. He has not worked in municipalities and has no experience," said Rusnák.
The Christian Democrats (KDH), in an effort to find a competitor for Trebuľa, proposed that both SDKÚ and KDH withdraw their candidates and declare common support for Rusnák, but the offer was declined by SDKÚ and Rusnák decided not to run for mayor at all.
Pastor's position within his own party has not always been strong. Some members blamed him for the party's disastrous results in last year's regional elections and demanded his expulsion.
Emil Kočiš (46), KDH, DS
Kočiš is a KDH veteran. He works as the regional director of the Statistics Office. He is also currently a member of the Košice city council, where he heads the KDH caucus. One of the current mayor's critics, he blames him for the inability to solve the large debt inherited from former mayor of Košice and now president Rudolf Schuster.
"We currently see Kočiš's chances as better than those of Pastor," said Rusnák.
Štefan Horváth (47), HZDS, PSNS, SNS
Horváth is a sexologist and former director of Košice's Louis Pasteur Hospital.
"Once we manage to create good living conditions for the inhabitants of Košice, to solve their problems, they will be more relaxed, they will have more time for love - and sex - as well," Horváth told the daily Košický Korzár.
Differing parties find common interests
Juraj Kopčák (58), KDH
In 1989 Kopčák was one of the founding members of the KDH in the region. He was first elected mayor in 1994 and has remained in office ever since.
Kopčák was also one of the founders of Mikuláš Dzurinda's SDKÚ in 2000, and acted as its vice-chairman for internal affairs. Nevertheless he left the party and is again running as a KDH candidate.
"I made the decision after asking my conscience, after confronting my values with those principles professed by the SDKÚ bodies in the Prešov region and in the city itself," said Kopčák.
In 2001 Kopčák attracted media attention for introducing a generally binding ordinance on confidential information approved by the city council, which according to critics crippled the effects of the law on free access to information in Prešov, making public administration and financing non-transparent.
Štefan Kužma (44), SDKÚ, ANO, DS, SMER
Kužma, the lesser-known brother of DS member Štefan Kužma, is the current vice-mayor of the city. Besides being on the city council as a KDH representative, Kužma was elected to the regional parliament as a representative for the SDKÚ in 2001.
Milan Benč (51), SDĽ, HZDS, SDA, HZD, SNS
Benč is the former vice-mayor of the city. He currently works as the head of the Prešov district office. Left-winger Benč, who in 2001 ran in the regional elections as a candidate for the Democratic Left Party (SDĽ) and Robert Fico's Smer, is supported by a wide spectrum of parties.
The reformist left-wing Social Democratic Alternative (SDA) - which refused to join a coalition comprised of the SDĽ and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) for city council elections - shares a candidate for mayor with not only its mother-party, the SDĽ, but also with the HZDS, HZD and SNS, a combination hardly imaginable at state level.
"We decided to support Benč because he is a left-wing candidate," said the head of SDA's regional council Darina Kapráľová.
The nationalistic right-wing SNS is not likely to share the SDA's motivation.
"We know Mr Benč is a respectable, decent person, who is not involved in any [funny business]. The situation is very bad and the SNS wants to help the Slovak nation out of its current misery. In social matters, we will unite with anyone who asks us for support," said SNS district boss Cyril Leško.
However, the SNS may have little choice but to unite with whoever is willing, as only 1.7 per cent of Prešov citizens voted for the SNS in the September parliamentary elections.
11. Nov 2002 at 0:00 | Lukáš Fila