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VIKTOR BÉREŠ SAYS BRIBE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST HIM ARE "ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE"

ANO MP leaves party

VIKTOR Béreš is leaving the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO). He blamed his departure on party boss Pavol Rusko's authoritative ways.
The ANO responded with a statement discrediting Béreš as corrupt, saying the ANO would have sacked Béreš if he had not announced his intention to leave on January 25.
Spokesman for the liberal ruling coalition party, Juraj Puchý, said that the ANO had recently received a written statement from an unnamed person confirming that Béreš had demanded a bribe.


ANO Chairman Pavol Rusko (centre) has been criticized for his "persuasive" ruling style.
photo: TASR

VIKTOR Béreš is leaving the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO). He blamed his departure on party boss Pavol Rusko's authoritative ways.

The ANO responded with a statement discrediting Béreš as corrupt, saying the ANO would have sacked Béreš if he had not announced his intention to leave on January 25.

Spokesman for the liberal ruling coalition party, Juraj Puchý, said that the ANO had recently received a written statement from an unnamed person confirming that Béreš had demanded a bribe.

According to unofficial sources, the bribe was asked in exchange for securing a personal meeting with Rusko. Slovak media reported that Béreš allegedly asked for several thousand crowns.

Béreš rejected the allegations and said he would defend his name in court.

"The recent events reaffirm to me that politics is dirty," Béreš told The Slovak Spectator January 26.

The 27-year-old politician said that his ambition to run for the head of the Trnava regional cabinet was likely behind the ANO's campaign against him.

"My ambitions did not play into someone's cards I suppose," he said.

Béreš insists that he never asked for money in exchange for organizing a meeting with Rusko.

According to Béreš, Rusko runs the ANO "as if it was a private firm, not a political party". He added that several other ANO members share his opinion but are afraid to openly admit it.

"Rusko does not stand criticism or rivals in the party," he said.

Béreš is not the first ANO member to criticize Rusko's authoritarian ways. Branislav Opaterný, who left the party in 2003, compared Rusko's practices to Stalin. In all, five ANO MPs have left the party since 2002.

ANO officials stand behind their allegations against Béreš and say that such behaviour is incongruous with ANO membership and the mandate of the ANO MPs.

The party plans to forward the signed statement accusing Béreš' of bribery to the police for investigation.

ANO also plans to ask Education Minister Martin Fronc to release Deputy Education Minister František Tóth from his post to fill Béreš's place. In this way, the ANO would force Béreš out of parliament. Later, Tóth could return to the ministry.

The same day Béreš announced his decision to leave the party, the ANO's regional council in Trnava, of which Béreš was a chairman, unanimously voted non-confidence in the young politician.

According to the council's official statement printed by TASR news agency, "The conflict between Béreš and ANO Chairman Rusko was his [Béreš's] personal issue and it was not consulted with the council."

The statement concludes that Béreš's actions "result from his unfulfilled personal ambitions".

Béreš rejects such comments.

"I am a free person. My decision to leave the ANO has been maturing for some time. In ANO, there is no space for initiatives. I consider all the allegations [regarding the bribery] to be absolutely absurd. I was shocked when I heard it," he said.

However, according to some ANO members, Rusko talked about the bribery allegations with Béreš before it was made public.

ANO Deputy Chairman Ľubomír Lintner told the press on January 25 that Rusko informed Béreš that the ANO would not back Béreš for the Trnava regional government chairman position until the bribery case was investigated and cleared.

Regional elections in Slovakia are scheduled to take place this year in autumn.

"He [Béreš] probably realized that his tenure at ANO was not going to last for much longer," Lintner said.

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