INTERIOR Minister Vladimír Palko of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) has rejected the demands made by his coalition partner the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) following a surveillance scandal in which the telephone of ANO boss Pavol Rusko was illegally tapped.
Both the Slovak Information Service (SIS) and the Interior Ministry were named in and suspected of involvement in the surveillance case, which is now being handled by investigators.
Although their involvement in the affair has not yet been proven, ANO presented its coalition partners with a set of demands designed to "restore trust" in the state's security bodies, including the right of their party to nominate their representatives to the deputy-chief post in either the SIS or the Interior Ministry. ANO says this would create political balance in these institutions, which are currently controlled by the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and the KDH respectively.
A planned meeting of all coalition partners on that matter was postponed from February 6 to an undetermined date in the future, but that did not stop several KDH representatives openly rejecting ANO's demands.
In a political discussion show on private TV Joj February 9, Palko said ANO's request for cross control was "absolutely unacceptable", and even suggested that ANO had been hoodwinked by a third party for political gain.
"[There could be] a principal third player who may have used Mr Rusko against me," said Palko. Since the scandal broke in early January, ANO has called several times for Palko to step down.
"All sound people are now expecting ANO to realise that what has happened was not a misuse of political power but a conspiracy," Palko said.
Palko admitted that in addition to a recording of Rusko's interview with a SME daily reporter, two more recordings of politicians have been discovered in a file that the Interior Ministry received into their tapping system from an unknown sender.
He said however, that those politicians were not as high ranking as Rusko. As well as leading the ANO party, Rusko serves as vice-speaker of the Slovak parliament.
"Apart from Mr Rusko, there aren't any [illicit] recordings of currently influential political personalities," Palko said.
This latest coalition crisis has even caught the eye of the European Parliament. The body's special envoy to Slovakia, Jan Marinus Wiersma, recently said that political intrigues were part of political life in every country. He added that he believed Slovakia's ruling coalition would be able to deal with the case in a civilised manner.
"In every country, now and then, you have this kind of story. In politics there are always conspiracies. It's what sells newspapers. But I think Slovakia is a stable democracy," Wiersma said.
Despite the ongoing investigation, ANO representatives say they are sceptical that they are ever going to see the perpetrators punished.
"As is usual in such cases in Slovakia, the perpetrator will simply not be found," said deputy chairman of ANO Ľubomír Lintner.
Inspections in the Interior Ministry and the SIS in recent weeks have indicated that the illegal recordings were not produced in either of the institutions. Lintner responded to this news with irony, remarking that the recording "must have been made by aliens".
Over the last few weeks the KDH and ANO have exchanged barbs through the media. The remaining two coalition partners, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and the SDKÚ, have not participated in the debate, stating they want to present their opinions to their partners face to face at a meeting of coalition partners rather than through the media.
However, SMK head Béla Bugár cautioned recently that the introduction of cross control would mean opening the coalition agreement, which defines the division of political power in the country's state authorities. Many coalition politicians agree that opening the coalition agreement would be unfortunate only four months after parliamentary elections.
ANO continues to insist that it is only trying to find a system by which mutual trust can be regained.
Lintner said: "We were submitting this proposal [for cross control] knowing that the question of trust is very important in politics. Sometimes steps must be taken that were not anticipated beforehand."
17. Feb 2003 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová