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YEAR IN NEWS - REVIEW 2004 - MINORITY CABINET SCORES MAJOR SUCCESSES THANKS TO INDEPENDENT MPS

Parliament in review

A CLOUD hung over Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's ruling coalition in January 2004 as seven members of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) abandoned Dzurinda to form the Free Forum (SF). The foul weather was thought to have settled in when another ruling party, the liberal New Citizen's Alliance, lost more parliamentary members, leaving Dzurinda's government with a minority vote in the 150-member-strong parliament.
Despite the nasty weather, however, Dzurinda has been able to make something of his minority government, securing mostly smooth sailing thanks to the support of the independent members of parliament.

A CLOUD hung over Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's ruling coalition in January 2004 as seven members of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) abandoned Dzurinda to form the Free Forum (SF). The foul weather was thought to have settled in when another ruling party, the liberal New Citizen's Alliance, lost more parliamentary members, leaving Dzurinda's government with a minority vote in the 150-member-strong parliament.

Despite the nasty weather, however, Dzurinda has been able to make something of his minority government, securing mostly smooth sailing thanks to the support of the independent members of parliament.

The opposition itself has failed to form a united plan against the Dzurinda cabinet. Although Smer, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), and the Communist Party (KSS) have met several times throughout the year, they cannot seem to wage an effective campaign to discredit Dzurinda's government.

One opposition initiative backed by Smer, however, was able to cause some pain. Unhappy with Dzurinda's reforms, labour unions called for a referendum on early parliamentary elections. Former President Rudolf Schuster supported Smer, and campaigned to set the referendum date for April 3, incidentally coinciding with the first round of the presidential elections in which Schuster was running [2004 presidential election in review, left].

Both Schuster and Smer suffered bitter losses. Low voter turnout invalidated the referendum and Schuster did not capture enough support to move into the second round of presidential elections.

In November, Dzurinda and HZDS Chairman Vladimír Mečiar were accused of making secret agreements on behalf of their respective parties, the SDKÚ and the HZDS. While both leaders continue to refute the allegations, the speculations multiply.

Nevertheless, Dzurinda's cabinet is now enjoying fair weather, working through the year's end without having to compromise considerably on its pro-reform programme. Even Ivan Šimko, founder of SF and Dzurinda's biggest critic, appears to be searching for reconciliation.

Šimko left the SF after losing both the party chairman election and the party's candidacy to the European Parliament. Recent media reports suggest that Šimko, now an independent member of parliament, invited Dzurinda to his 50th birthday party to bury the axe.

Recently, only a small battle was lost: The minority coalition could not fill a vacant parliamentary vice-speaker post despite taking several votes.


January 14- Ivan Šimko, recent founder of SF, demands that Prime Minister Dzruinda step down in return for SF's support.


January 18 - Trade unionists deliver 12 boxes to the presidential palace containing more than 17,000 sheets of paper with 606,352 signatures calling for a referendum on early parliamentary elections. President Rudolf Schuster suggests merging a referendum with the first round of the presidential elections on April 3.


February 4 - President Schuster announces a referendum on early elections to be held April 3, alongside presidential elections.


March 27 - Zuzana Martináková is elected chairwoman of the Free Forum. Martináková beat Ivan Šimko by a one vote majority, earning 131 votes to her competitor's 130.


April - A watchdog group, Fair Play Alliance (AFP), reveals fake donors on the SDKÚ's list. Dzurinda insists that his party did not break any laws and the SDKÚ later accuses the AFP of untrustworthiness.


April 3 - A low voter turnout of 35.9 percent makes the referendum on early parliamentary elections invalid. (Slovak law requires at least 50 percent turnout to validate a plebiscite.)


July 27 - SDKÚ representatives meet with six independent members of parliament to try to bolster the stability of the coalition.

According to the SDKÚ proposal, the independent MPs would promise not to vote for legislative bills that would increase state spending. The MPs would also promise to support cabinet-proposed reforms and assist in preparing future state budgets.


September - Tiny non-parliamentary left-wing parties, Democratic Left Party, Social Democratic Alternative, and the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia, announce plans to merge with Smer to form an integrated left-wing party to oppose the current right-wing cabinet.


October 23 - Šimko announces he is leaving SF to become an independent MP.


December 11 - Smer integrates with left-wing parties. As of January 1, Smer will be known as Smer - Social Democracy.

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