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BALLOT A FOREGONE CONCLUSION DESPITE HEATED DEBATE

PM survives no-confidence vote

AS EXPECTED, the parliamentary opposition failed in its bid to topple PM Mikuláš Dzurinda from power in a July 6 no-confidence vote.

AS EXPECTED, the parliamentary opposition failed in its bid to topple PM Mikuláš Dzurinda from power in a July 6 no-confidence vote.

The motion to remove the PM, and thereby defeat the coalition government, was initiated by the Smer opposition party, but drew the support of only 60 of the 122 MPs present in the 150-seat legislature. To succeed, the no-confidence ballot needed a 76-vote majority.

MPs representing Smer and fellow opposition parties the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the Free Forum (SF), and the Slovak Communist Party (KSS), all voted for the PM's removal. However, independent MPs, 13 of whom did not show up for the no-confidence vote, along with several opposition MPs who were not even present in parliament, helped Dzurinda keep his seat.

According to political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov, the head of the Institute for Public Affairs think tank, the failure of the motion demonstrated that "the opposition is not strong enough to recall cabinet ministers, let alone the PM".

Debate on the motion began on June 28 and continued on July 6. As much as a test of opposition strength, the initiative was seen as an opportunity to do battle over the Dzurinda government's economic reforms, which have been decried by the socialist Smer as harsh on lower income groups.

"The confrontational debate between Smer and members of the cabinet proved that the two groups have totally different views of Slovakia's right wing reforms," Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator after the motion was defeated.

The July 6 parliamentary debate descended into a quarrel between Smer leader Robert Fico and the leader of the HZDS, Vladimír Mečiar. The latter accused Fico of using parliament as a staging-ground for his campaign ahead of 2006 elections.

Fico, on the other hand, accused Mečiar of neglecting his opposition role by failing to participate in the parliamentary debate over Dzurinda and his government.

The verbal crossfire drew speeches from other MPs as well. Stanislav Janiš, an MP from Dzurinda's ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) party, said Fico's hunger for power was behind the recall motion. He accused Fico of behaving like a communist by focussing on poverty in Slovakia.

The SDKÚ's Ferdinand Devínsky added that "Slovakia is not a country of despair and decline as Fico is trying to portray it". He noted that unemployment was falling and that the performance of the economy was continuing to improve.

Devínsky said the cabinet "is keeping its word and carrying out reforms that were part of its programme".

On the other hand, Smer MP Vojtech Tkáč said that the members of the Dzurinda cabinet are "paint-by-numbers capitalists", and labelled cabinet policy inhumane and incompetent.

He accused Dzurinda of being "a silent partner of the independent MPs who are keeping this cabinet alive".

In the heated session on June 28, Fico and Dzurinda accused each other of anti-social reforms and populism respectively.

In a speech to MPs, Fico slammed the right-wing cabinet's reforms and said Dzurinda's government had made rich people richer and poor people poorer.

In another tirade against graft, Fico said that Dzurinda had failed to fight corruption and cronyism, and had instead turned them into tools for retaining power.

"The PM is responsible for the huge crisis of corruption and cronyism," Fico said, reminding his audience that Dzurinda continued to refuse to reveal the name of the company that had assumed a Sk22 million (€574,400) debt owed by the SDKÚ.

Dzurinda, in turn, accused Fico of teaming up with the communists and having "no alternative but chaos" to offer voters should he succeed in toppling the current government.

According to Mesežnikov, the defeat of the no-confidence motion was a decisive one that would likely end opposition attempts to have cabinet ministers recalled until the end of the current government's term in autumn 2006.

"The opposition today is in no state to recall ministers, and definitely not to defeat the PM, which would mean the fall of the government. Early elections don't suit many people in parliament, including some members of the opposition," he said.


With TASR reports

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