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NATIONALIST PARTY FAILS TO ELECT NEW LEADER, DISCUSS POLITICAL FUTURE

SNS congress collapses in chaos

DEEP divisions within the Slovak National Party (SNS), which turned into an open battle at the party's congress, are certain to have an effect on the planned integration of nationalist forces in Slovakia, although insiders do not agree on whether they will help or hinder the process.
The main points on the agenda of the congress, which took place on April 26 in Humenné, were the election of a new party boss and reaching consensus on unification with the Real Slovak National Party (PSNS), Slovakia's other nationalist party led by Ján Slota. However, the meeting ended without a new leader having been elected, and without so much as a mention of the planned political merger.
The congress started off on a bad footing when delegates failed to elect the congress officials. Members began voicing suspicions that the meeting was being manipulated.


THE CALM before the storm: SNS chairperson Anna Malíková accepts flowers from Jaroslav Kocan at the party congress.
photo: TASR

DEEP divisions within the Slovak National Party (SNS), which turned into an open battle at the party's congress, are certain to have an effect on the planned integration of nationalist forces in Slovakia, although insiders do not agree on whether they will help or hinder the process.

The main points on the agenda of the congress, which took place on April 26 in Humenné, were the election of a new party boss and reaching consensus on unification with the Real Slovak National Party (PSNS), Slovakia's other nationalist party led by Ján Slota. However, the meeting ended without a new leader having been elected, and without so much as a mention of the planned political merger.

The congress started off on a bad footing when delegates failed to elect the congress officials. Members began voicing suspicions that the meeting was being manipulated.

"There is so much hate here that if it spilled out onto the Hungarians, they would all fall down dead," SNS boss Anna Malíková yelled at delegates, according to the SITA news agency.

There were six candidates for the top party position in the first round of voting. Malíková and former Nitra mayor Jozef Prokeš received most votes in that round, but neither gained enough support to win. There was a second round of voting, with just those two candidates, and again, neither got the required number of votes.

Participants of the congress could not agree on whether the same candidates could run in the third round, prompting 40 delegates from the southern regions of Lučenec, Veľký Krtíš, and Rimavská Sobota to walk out of the congress in protest at the deadlock.

"All those who are here care only about their own profit. It's easier to reach an agreement with the Hungarians than with these so-called Slovaks," said delegate Ivan Eidner, head of the Lučenec district SNS organisation.

Malíková, with a group of around 100 faithful, also left the room, but in protest at vulgar comments directed at her by some SNS members. A number of delegates were reported to be intoxicated from the beginning of the meeting.

Because of the low number of party members present at that point, the idea of a third round of voting was dropped.

"Prokeš, who was chairing the meeting, announced that the congress did not meet the quorum and that he didn't know what he was supposed to do," states a report released by the SNS supervisory committee on April 29.

Malíková returned to the room only to announce that she was ending the congress. She said that the date of a new one would be announced within three weeks.

"This congress was worthless. The only people here were those seeking profit, for whom SNS was supposed to serve as an elevator to power," Malíková told SITA.

"If these people ever get to power, then only God can help Slovakia," said Malíková about her political rivals.

Malíková still sees herself as party head, although her opponents claim she is no longer SNS chairperson because the congress failed to reelect her.

Party spokesperson Vladimír Dobrovič said it was difficult for him to say what caused the failure of the congress or predict how things would develop.

"As a spokesperson of the party, I cannot take one side or the other," he said.

The congress was also expected to approve the unification of the SNS and PSNS. The PSNS was created in October 2001 by former leaders of the SNS, after a faction was expelled from the party for voicing their opposition to Malíková's perceived use of undemocratic methods in an internal election in December 2000.

The SNS was represented in parliament from 1992 until 2002. Largely due to the split in the party, neither the SNS nor the PSNS garnered the 5 percent of votes needed to get into parliament in last year's elections.

A survey carried out by the Public Opinion Research Institute of the Slovak Statistics Office released on April 17 shows that the PSNS is supported by 2.5 percent of the voting public and the SNS by 2.4 percent. Combined, the parties would be approaching the 5 percent minimum, which also applies for elections into the European Parliament scheduled to take place in just over a year.

"We are sorry to say that the congress ended in a fiasco, despite our great expectations. We feel that the personal tensions within the SNS led to the delegates not getting to the main point of the congress," said PSNS spokesperson Rafael Rafaj.

"If the SNS members were really interested in integration with the PSNS and in creating one strong party, they should have favoured this political goal over other less important points, such as the election of party leaders, amendments to statutes, and programme updating. All the questions that led to the failure of the congress are of a temporary nature and will last only until the creation of a new party, which will have its own representatives and programme," said Rafaj.

However, SNS representatives say integration will not be slowed down by the recent events.

"I see no reason why [the failure of the congress] should have a negative impact and it might even accelerate the process. It is becoming clear that nationalist forces have to unite, and all SNS members are aware of that," said Dobrovič.

"Perhaps [integration] will be decided very shortly, or perhaps it will drag on until June," said Dobrovič.

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