ONE YEAR after parliamentary elections, Mikuláš Dzurinda's ruling coalition, which started the election term with 78 deputies, will lose its majority in Slovak Parliament after three New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) deputies leave the party's deputy faction.
The broad coalition, involving liberals and conservatives, will now formally have 75 deputies, which is exactly half of all the parliamentary seats. The ruling coalition politicians admit that the change might cause some trouble when trying to push through cabinet-tailored laws.
The ruling coalition will need a majority to pass laws pertaining to the public administration reform; the voting over next year's state budget and draft law on conflict of interest will also be tense.
After the general elections in 2002, four center-to-right parties, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), ANO, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), gained a slight majority in the 150-seat parliament.
In 2002, Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) was the strongest parliamentary party, with 36 deputies, followed by the SDKÚ with 28 seats, and Robert Fico's Smer with 25 representatives. The SMK gained 20 seats, followed by the KDH and ANO with 15 seats each. The Communists (KSS), who entered the parliament for the first time since being ousted from power by the student-initiated Velvet Revolution in 1989, were left with 11 seats.
The SDKÚ, KDH, and SMK have not lost a single deputy since then. Even outgoing Defence Minister Ivan Šimko said he would stay in the SDKÚ to maintain some internal opposition to Dzurinda.
After criticising the practices of his boss, Pavol Rusko, Robert Nemcsics had to depart from the economy ministerial post. Deputy Anton Danko and Deputy Transportation Minister Branislav Opaterný have each chosen to quit the ANO deputy faction. However, the ANO renegades have promised to support the ruling coalition's reform steps.
The first government of Mikuláš Dzurinda, rising in 1998, was a fragile union of ideologically irreconcilable parties, such as the offspring of the totalitarian Communist party, the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ), and the conservative Christian Democrats, which had leaders who were persecuted under the Communist regime. The SDĽ often voted in line with the opposition in parliament, thus hindering laws crucial for economic and social reforms.
When Dzurinda's second cabinet was rising in 2002, analysts had hoped that the rule of the more ideologically cohesive coalition would be much smoother than the craggy path of the SDKÚ trying to rule with the SDĽ and the Party of Civil Understanding, which has already slipped into political oblivion.
Shortly after the general elections in September 2002, a political scientist with the Institute for Public Affairs, Grigorij Mesežnikov, described the new coalition as a union of parties that are dedicated to democracy and "meet all the criteria necessary to last over the four-year term."
One year later, when commenting on ANO voting in line with the parliamentary opposition over an amendment to the Treaty with the Vatican, Mesežnikov told private news wire SITA that the ruling coalition parties are in fact condemned to co-rule during the entire election term. He predicted, however, that the rule will be rather vexatious.
The nature of parliamentary opposition parties has also dramatically changed over the past year. Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), bleeding from wounds from its failure to shape the cabinet, has given up the concept of obstructive opposition.
After eleven HZDS renegades said no to Mečiar's authoritarian party management and shaped an independent caucus, the movement ceased to be the strongest parliamentary party - with its number of deputies dropping from 36 to 25.
Mečiar, paralysed by his corroding influence within the movement, made less acid comments about the operation of the Dzurinda team, and his people became more forthcoming when voting on legislation crucial for Slovakia's entry to NATO and the EU.
Not only politicians, but also HZDS sympathisers, have found Mečiar's turn unexpected. Popularity decline and departing party members have characterised the movement's recent operation. Even the prime minister credited Mečiar's support for important EU-related laws and the country's NATO entry. However, most ruling coalition politicians have distrusted Mečiar's political metamorphosis.
The strongest opposition party, Smer, led by Robert Fico, has intensified its criticism towards the Dzurinda team. However, Fico's party has not been able to find an ally in its political crusade, apart from the Communists' occasional support.
In response to the recent turbulence within the coalition, on September 23, Fico told news wire SITA that the ruling coalition could fulfil its mission only if it completely reshaped the cabinet to no longer be led by Mikuláš Dzurinda.
Given the fact that ANO's Nemcsics, Opaterný, and Danko promised to vote in line with the ruling coalition agenda even after quitting the deputy faction, the coalition should still be able to push important laws through parliament. Moreover, the HZDS renegades, who, led by Vojtech Tkáč, have established the People's Union (ĽÚ) and operate as independent deputies within parliament, might be willing to assist the Dzurinda team if it runs short of votes.
29. Sep 2003 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová