ANO makes temporary peace with its ruling partners, but internal rifts jeopardise party
been perceived as a major coalition crisis marked by one of the four partners, the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO),
standing against the remaining three ruling parties.
After a six-week summer break, the coalition council meeting between members of the ruling parties took place
on August 19 with Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda announcing that "all four partners agreed that during the
remaining election term we want to abide by the rules of the coalition agreement".
The agreement stipulates the rules of coalition cooperation and states, among other clauses, that no ruling partner
should join with the parliamentary opposition to push through laws against the will of the rest of the coalition.
A couple of hours before the crucial coalition meeting, representatives from three of the four parties sharing
power - the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Christian Democrats (KDH), and Hungarian
Coalition (SMK) - met with Vojtech Tkáč, People's Union (ĽÚ) leader and former member of the Movement for
a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). The fourth coalition member, ANO, did not attend the meeting.
Before meeting with Tkáč, Dzurinda had even warned ANO boss Pavol Rusko that he would not feel any
obligations to the party if it continued to break the coalition agreement by voting with the opposition. Rusko
suggested that his coalition partners wanted to threaten him by suggesting that they had already found a "willing
The only issue that the coalition meeting has left open is the draft amendment to the country's abortion law
proposed by ANO. President Rudolf Schuster vetoed the law in July, and a repeated vote on the legislation will
be held in September.
Analysts noted that problems could still arise in September if ANO insists on once more voting in favour of the
legislation, which would mean joining with the opposition. The co-ruling Christian Democrats, who oppose the
law, said earlier this year that if the legislation takes effect, it would appeal to the prime minister to recall all
ANO ministers from government.
Dzurinda hinted that a possible solution to the dispute was on the way.
ANO's proposed legislation would insert the possibility of abortions to be carried out by week 24 of pregnancy
in case of serious genetic damages in the foetus, currently only allowed on the basis of a health ministry's
directive, into the proper abortions law.
The guideline, as well as some aspects of the law itself, are currently being studied by the Constitutional Court,
which is expected to reach a verdict in September. ANO said their amendment was meant to prevent abortions
on genetic grounds from being banned by the court.
According to Dzurinda, it is possible that the ruling partners will jointly agree to wait for the Constitutional
Court verdict before the second vote on the ANO-proposed legislation.
Reaching a unanimous settlement may prove problematic. Ľubomír Lintner, head of ANO's parliamentary
caucus, told The Slovak Spectator shortly before the coalition council meeting that his party continues to insist
that there is "no reason to change our [ANO's] attitude in the case of the abortion law".
Grigorij Mesežnikov, head of the Institute for Public Affairs think tank in Bratislava, was also cautious over the
"It is still necessary to wait to see what happens in parliament regarding the abortion law before we can say that
the coalition problems are gone for good," he said on August 21.
ANO, in addition to the outstanding problems in their relations with coalition partners, mainly an apparent
breakdown in communication with the KDH, has yet to solve another internal party problem.
Following an August 17 informal goulash party, several ANO MPs and officials suggested that two of the
party's ministerial officials, Economy Minister Robert Nemcsics and Deputy Transport Minister Branislav
Opaterný, should consider leaving their posts over their recent critical remarks regarding the situation inside
Both officials criticised the leadership of the party and blamed Rusko for using ANO as a vehicle of his interests.
Opaterný went as far as to compare ANO leader Pavol Rusko to Stalin.
Both officials refused to deny speculations that, if ousted from ANO, they would consider entering Dzurinda's
Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ).
Although the majority of ANO representatives have denied that there are problems in terms of democracy inside
the party, a number of analysts agreed that the recent developments in the party were not positive. "Something is
wrong in ANO," said Mesežnikov.
The final word on whether the officials will be replaced in their ministerial positions is expected on August 25
when a meeting of the ANO board is to take place.
When asked whether ANO had already agreed on who would replace Nemcsics and Opaterný, Lintner said that
that the question was premature.
Even if the officials were replaced, Mesežnikov said it would "not endanger the coalition because neither of the
two is considering joining the opposition".
"That means that the number of coalition MPs (in parliament) would, in essence, remain unchanged," he said.
ANO's Lintner also said that his party "did not want to leave the coalition" and that it was their ruling partners
who were putting the liberals under pressure, including the official meeting of leaders of the three other coalition
partners with Vojtech Tkáč shortly before the coalition council meeting.
"Were we supposed to take this as a signal that that could be the new coalition council," Lintner said.
Dzurinda's statement following the coalition council, however, at least partly calmed the fears that the right-
wing cabinet would fall apart.
Mesežnikov said: "I think the partners once again realised that what they have in common far outweighs the
issues that they don't agree on. And besides, existing options for a minority cabinet or early elections would
cause problems for all involved."
24. Aug 2003 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová