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EDITORIAL

The beginning of the end for HZDS?

THE NEWS of a major split in the HZDS party, headed by former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar, is very welcome news to politicos of every other party. The HZDS before the split was the biggest single party in parliament, with 26 seats. The rump party, assuming no more than 11 deputies make the collective leap into the unknown, finds itself relegated to second place (tying with Smer) behind Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's SDKÚ. That is the immediate benefit for its opponents, but there will be others.


MEČIAR may be losing his grip.
photo: File photo

THE NEWS of a major split in the HZDS party, headed by former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar, is very welcome news to politicos of every other party. The HZDS before the split was the biggest single party in parliament, with 26 seats. The rump party, assuming no more than 11 deputies make the collective leap into the unknown, finds itself relegated to second place (tying with Smer) behind Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's SDKÚ. That is the immediate benefit for its opponents, but there will be others.

Mečiar's position as leader of a party for which he appears to have little time has been made even more precarious. If he steps down, or is ousted, it seems such an outcome will be less than heartbreaking, even for Mečiar himself. Mečiar's focus is determinedly set on the presidential elections in 2004, which, depending on whether or not there are credible candidates, he has a fair chance of winning, due to his ability to attract votes from the less-enlightened hinterland.

The HZDS has been a thorn in the side of the political establishment since the end of 1998, when it ceased to call the shots itself under Mečiar as prime minister. In the 1998 and 2002 general elections, the HZDS won more votes and more parliamentary seats than any other party, yet failed to form the government.

The split may spell the beginning of its political demise. After all, the history of party splits is not a happy one. The left-wing SDĽ party found itself unable to attract enough support at the last election to gain any seats in parliament, following the defection of leading moderates including former finance minister Brigita Schmögnerová. Ditto the SNS nationalist party, whose dire showing in the 2002 poll provoked the political unthinkable, a kiss and make-up between bitter rivals Anna Malíková and Ján Slota.

So, for the moment, there will be much rejoicing on castle hill. But what of the fall-out? Where will the votes go to if the HZDS evaporates? It is most unlikely that the benefit will go to PM Dzurinda or any of the parties that orbit him. That leaves Smer (lit. "direction"), the party that still hasn't found its way and therefore has room to manoeuvre, or another outfit that appears increasingly anti-establishment, ANO. Yes, we live in interesting times.

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