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AGREEMENT BETWEEN RULING PARTIES TO BE AMENDED

New coalition rejected, reforms may lose edge

SLOVAKIA's minority cabinet will continue functioning in its current state, as PM Mikuláš Dzurinda plans to carry on winning votes in favour of the cabinet laws as he has done so far - through ad hoc agreements with independent MPs and those who left the ruling parties last year.
On April 28 the Free Forum (SF) party, consisting of six former members of the PM's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union and a dissenter from the New Citizen's Alliance, proposed the creation of a new coalition joining the SF with the ruling Christian Democrats (KDH) and Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK).

SLOVAKIA's minority cabinet will continue functioning in its current state, as PM Mikuláš Dzurinda plans to carry on winning votes in favour of the cabinet laws as he has done so far - through ad hoc agreements with independent MPs and those who left the ruling parties last year.

On April 28 the Free Forum (SF) party, consisting of six former members of the PM's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union and a dissenter from the New Citizen's Alliance, proposed the creation of a new coalition joining the SF with the ruling Christian Democrats (KDH) and Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK).

According to the SF plan, the new bloc would have 42 MPs and could demand the prime ministerial seat, which would be filled by KDH chairman Pavol Hrušovský.

However, the KDH immediately refused the plan, as did the SMK after discussing it internally.

Dzurinda later told journalists that the plan was not even worth commenting on. Analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov, who leads the Bratislava-based Institute for Public Affairs, also considers the SF's plan unrealistic.

Even with the new bloc of 42 MPs, the ruling coalition would still have a minority of 74 votes in parliament, two short of the parliamentary majority.

"It is hard to imagine how it would work," Mesežnikov said to The Slovak Spectator.

SF chairwoman Zuzana Martináková said at a press conference on April 27 that if the SF plan were not accepted, her party of seven MPs would remain outside the cabinet. The SF has repeatedly said that it would not enter a cabinet led by Dzurinda.

The four ruling parties then met to discuss plans to regain the majority in parliament. Currently, the coalition has direct control over 67 MPs.

Dzurinda told journalists after the coalition meeting that there was a greater chance of calming the situation in the coalition and that he would sincerely try to negotiate support for the cabinet laws as had been done so far.

"I feel the will [from ruling partners] to fulfil the coalition's programme," Dzurinda said.

The coalition also agreed to amend the coalition treaty with a plan proposed by the SMK stipulating that important issues regarding reforms and the state budget would be approved in a consensus of all ruling partners.

But while the partners seemed happy with the new proposal, hoping that the coalition would be able to complete its proper four-year term in office, which ends in 2006, Mesežnikov warned that the decision might also bring the cabinet's bold reforms to an end.

"If they use the method of consensus, that may suggest that the parties have already resigned on some reforms," Mesežnikov said.

The willingness of the KDH and SMK to support the coalition in its current form came as a surprise in light of previous statements made by Hrušovský and SMK chairman Béla Bugár.

Bugár had suggested that Dzurinda should resign, and Hrušovský said on April 27 that, "the style of politics that PM Mikuláš Dzurinda has enforced on the ruling coalition is not acceptable for the KDH and SMK."

"It hurts not only political parties but could also hurt Slovakia and, to an extent, it could weaken parliamentary democracy in the country," Hrušovský said to the state-run TASR news agency.

Before the coalition meeting, however, political analyst Soňa Szomolányi from Bratislava's Comenius University told The Slovak Spectator that the fall of the current cabinet was not only against the interest of the parties inside the coalition, but also of many independent MPs who could lose their jobs should early elections be held.

"The cabinet has a chance to survive, although as a minority. There are too many independent MPs in parliament who know that new elections would not win them MP seats," she said.

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