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EDITORIAL

Political infighting over energy reaches frenzy

AMONG the many factors that may be causing tensions between the ruling parties, one has not been paid enough attention - the fight for power over the state-run electricity producer Slovenské elektrárne (SE).
A clash over whose nominees were to be put into top SE managerial positions led to one of the first serious disagreements between the liberal New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) party and the Christian Democrats (KDH) at the end of last year.
ANO boss Pavol Rusko, who failed to push his people into positions within the KDH-controlled Interior Ministry, at that time said that the Economy and Privatization Ministry, run by ANO nominee Robert Nemcsics, would in return not appoint KDH people into SE's governing bodies.

AMONG the many factors that may be causing tensions between the ruling parties, one has not been paid enough attention - the fight for power over the state-run electricity producer Slovenské elektrárne (SE).

A clash over whose nominees were to be put into top SE managerial positions led to one of the first serious disagreements between the liberal New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) party and the Christian Democrats (KDH) at the end of last year.

ANO boss Pavol Rusko, who failed to push his people into positions within the KDH-controlled Interior Ministry, at that time said that the Economy and Privatization Ministry, run by ANO nominee Robert Nemcsics, would in return not appoint KDH people into SE's governing bodies.

However, Rusko's repeated attempts to interfere with the way the Economy Ministry was run also led to disputes between himself and Nemcsics. In a recent interview with the weekly Domino Fórum, Nemcsics admitted that Rusko had tried to influence his decision-making.

Nemcsics also complained that decisions at SE were being made behind his back. While he was on vacation, the SE general director replaced all the directors of SE's branch companies.

"I did not have any information that indicated that it was necessary to act so promptly," said Nemcsics, adding that even though he did not think the move was desirable, someone with great interest in the move had "decided otherwise".

Nemcsics added he did not know whether Rusko might have been involved.

Days after the interview was published, the ANO boss, backed by the party's top bodies, asked Nemcsics to leave his ministerial seat due to his public statements that had "harmed the party".

Nonetheless, the argument that Rusko may be trying to exercise power over SE has gained further weight in recent days, after police investigators suggested that Rusko had blackmailed SE boss Miroslav Rapšík into making the personnel changes mentioned by Nemcsics for Domino Fórum. However, both men have denied the allegations.

Struggles over SE are likely to become more intensive as the company gets ready to be transferred to private investors.

On August 21 the government approved a draft amendment to the law on the privatisation of strategic companies owned partly or fully by the state, which will enable the state to sell all its shares in the firms. The total value of the sell-off is estimated to reach around Sk80 billion (€1.9 billion).

A 49-percent stake in SE, a part of that package, will probably be the most interesting state asset for sale from the perspective of prospective investors.

Slovak ruling parties have, in the past, had trouble keeping privatisations transparent, with frequent allegations that finances gained in the process have flowed into party coffers. Perhaps this deal will be completed just in time to fund the parties' 2006 election campaigns.

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