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DZURINDA PRESENTS SF WITH A LIST OF PROPOSALS, POSSIBLE MEETING NEXT WEEK

Dzurinda vs. Šimko

THE MEETING of two of the country's most watched politicians, PM Mikuláš Dzurinda and the leader of the Free Forum (SF), Ivan Šimko, brought no results that would secure the ruling parties a majority in parliament. Yet for the first time, the PM has publicly proposed ways to iron out the wrinkles between him and his former ally.

THE MEETING of two of the country's most watched politicians, PM Mikuláš Dzurinda and the leader of the Free Forum (SF), Ivan Šimko, brought no results that would secure the ruling parties a majority in parliament. Yet for the first time, the PM has publicly proposed ways to iron out the wrinkles between him and his former ally.

At a late evening meeting on February 3, Dzurinda offered Šimko the nomination of one of his party's members to the seat of deputy speaker of parliament, which is currently empty.

He also invited SF nominees to run for other vacant public posts, such as the cabinet's new IT plenipotentiary position.

Dzurinda said he appealed to Šimko to act in parliament so that no laws or changes are approved that would increase the public finance deficit. The SF calls for payments to Slovak pensioners to compensate for the impact of the reforms this year.

The PM asked that the SF participate in the cabinet's legislative process from the beginning to avoid future conflicts in which the party might oppose some laws in parliament with the claim that they are in conflict with the cabinet's plan.

Dzurinda also proposed that the SF nominate its chairman to the planned parliamentary committee to study the impact of reforms, something the SF has been calling for.

Following the meeting Šimko told journalists that his party would not be placated with state posts, insisting that its goal was greater democratic control over the parties in power.

"We don't care for posts and nominations. We care about the control of power," Šimko said.

But according to Dzurinda, Šimko welcomed some of the PM's proposals, especially the committee on the impact of reforms.

The SF would not, however, guarantee that their MPs would not support attempts to recall individual cabinet ministers, should such attempts take place.

The cabinet parties currently have control of 68 of the total 150 MPs and the support of the SF's eight MPs would re-establish a slight majority for the cabinet.

The SF consists of seven former members of the PM's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union who left the party at the end of 2003 in protest of Dzurinda's policies.

Šimko turned against Dzurinda after he was ousted from the seat of defence minister for his refusal to vote for the recall of former National Security Office head Ján Mojžiš, as the party's leadership had recommended.

Dzurinda said that he would meet with Šimko again in one week.

Originally, the ruling parties wanted to invite Šimko to be the fifth member of the ruling coalition.

Šimko, however, demanded that Dzurinda be replaced before the SF would consider such a move.

The Slovak Democratic and Christian Union rejected this possibility.

Even now, the SF maintains that the cabinet should be rebuilt, while Dzurinda has said several times that there are no vacant ministerial seats in his government.

Branislav Opaterný from the SF recently told the Slovak daily Pravda that his party "insists on the reconstruction of the cabinet, even if Dzurinda remains in his seat".

The cabinet crisis has troubled observers for more than two months and various interest groups recently asked the major players of the conflict to settle the conflict in the interest of political and economic stability.

Last month, Slovak business representatives called on politicians in general to make sure that their disputes do not endanger the economic environment of the country. Most recently, 29 Slovak personalities, including artists, analysts, and academics, asked Šimko and Dzurinda directly to stop risking the right-wing cabinet's work so far.

"The progress of the last few years, to which you have contributed is endangered. You are risking all that has been achieved," the appeal read.

"Those who refuse to look for a compromise show disrespect for the highest values of a democratic politician - responsibility for the power that was rendered to them and the placement of public interests above personal ones."

At a press conference after the meeting, Dzurinda said that he considered Šimko to be sympathetic to his party's mission and hoped that this was a good basis for cooperation.

"In terms of our programmes, we are the closest parties to each other, regardless of the feelings Mr Šimko may hold for me," Dzurinda said.

When asked whether he regretted firing former security chief Mojžiš, a case that apparently started off the current cabinet turmoil, the PM said: "I could not have acted differently and I would do it again."

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