OPPOSITION TAKES ON IVAN MIKLOŠ, SF POSITION CRUCIAL

Finance Minister faces recall

OPPOSITION leaders will submit a proposal to recall Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš, the man they say is responsible for social distress as one of the architects of the right-wing cabinet's reforms.
The idea of sacking Mikloš was initiated by the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia party and backed by all opposition parties.
To recall a minister, 76 votes are needed. It remains unclear whether all seven independent MPs, former members of the ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union who recently founded the Free Forum (SF) party, would vote to oust Mikloš.

OPPOSITION leaders will submit a proposal to recall Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš, the man they say is responsible for social distress as one of the architects of the right-wing cabinet's reforms.

The idea of sacking Mikloš was initiated by the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia party and backed by all opposition parties.

To recall a minister, 76 votes are needed. It remains unclear whether all seven independent MPs, former members of the ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union who recently founded the Free Forum (SF) party, would vote to oust Mikloš.

SF leader Ivan Šimko recently said that there were reasons to vote the finance minister out of his job: "He has ignored the impact of reforms and a broad discussion of the reform steps."

Earlier, Šimko's party demanded the creation of a special committee in parliament that would study the impact of reforms on the population. But when PM Mikuláš Dzurinda offered to create the committee and said an SF member could lead it in turn for the support of the ruling coalition, the SF refused.

Even now the SF position towards the recall is confusing to observers.

"Recalling the Dzurinda cabinet ministers is not part of SF's agenda. The Free Forum is more interested in the impact of the reforms on the people of Slovakia," Šimko said to The Slovak Spectator on March 3.

He added, however, that because Mikloš has avoided discussion of the impact of the cabinet reforms on the population "the SF has serious reason to express non-confidence in the minister."

Counting on the SF MPs, the opposition would have 77 votes and Mikloš would be recalled. But despite Šimko's comments, it is still unclear whether all SF members would back the opposition's proposal.

The opposition has not specified the date on which they want to initiate the recall, but it is believed that it will take place during the ongoing parliamentary session this month.

Smer leader Robert Fico said that the opposition wanted to be sure all of its MPs were available to vote for the recall.

Currently, for instance, Slovak Communist Party head Jozef Ševc is in the hospital with a serious heart condition.

The coalition council has agreed that none of the ruling parties would support the recall of any of its cabinet officials and has also decided that in parliament the coalition would demand a public ballot rather than the usual secret vote.

For Mikloš, this will be the second attempt for his recall after a failed initiative on the part of the opposition in June 2003.

The PM defends Mikloš, a long-time party fellow and one of the most significant figures in the Dzurinda cabinet.

Dzurinda said on February 29 that there are no factual arguments for Mikloš's recall.

"Ivan Mikloš is the most significant bearer of reforms that have gained the trust of economic circles at home and abroad. He is a quality person," Dzurinda said.

Only recently, Mikloš received a prize from an association of small and medium-sized enterprises and the European Enterprise Institute for the reforms he has carried out.

Mikloš's recall, Speaker of Parliament Pavol Hrušovský fears, might also lead to the fall of the cabinet if the opposition proved it was able to recall any of the cabinet's ministers.

The PM said that he was going to try to convince the SF to back the minister.

"We will try to convince the Free Forum that the way towards potential cooperation is not through their support for the recall of cabinet ministers," Dzurinda said.

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