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HZDS REACHES OUT TO UNHAPPY RULING PARTIES BUT COALITION KEEPS UNITED FRONT

Early elections meet opposition approval

IN THE ENSUING drama following the parliamentary deadlock earlier this month, Slovakia's political parties continue to wrestle with how to proceed.

IN THE ENSUING drama following the parliamentary deadlock earlier this month, Slovakia's political parties continue to wrestle with how to proceed.

After the opposition submitted a law to parliament that would shorten the current election term to June 2006, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) is making an amendment that would change early elections to April 8.

According to the HZDS chairman, Vladimír Mečiar, the opposition could secure 72 votes of the required 90 for early elections. If two ruling parties, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), supported the legislation, a vast majority of 107 votes could be achieved.

SMK Chairman Béla Bugár said, however, that the SMK would not support the opposition's initiative for early elections because of a coalition agreement that forbids the SMK from uniting with the opposition against the will of the remaining coalition partners.

Earlier, when the ruling coalition could not muster enough votes to open parliament, Bugár had declared that the only way to solve the political crisis was through early elections.

"The SMK did not manage to convince our coalition partners [that early elections was a viable solution]. Having failed to start the early election process from the inside, I suggest that the opposition try to initiate early elections from the outside," he told the press on September 27.

KDH Chairman Pavol Hrušovský also said that his party was bound by commitments resulting from the coalition agreement. According to Hrušovský, the KDH would support early elections only if all coalition partners supported the idea.

Hrušovský's party peer, Justice Minister Daniel Lipšic, said that while early elections are preferable to the current situation in parliament, they require the support of the whole coalition.

Lipšic warned against the dangers of the coalition agreement, however. "The worst tragedy for Slovakia would be if the coalition fell apart, the government collapsed and there weren't any early elections. It would be the least responsible solution of all," he said at a press conference on September 27.

The ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) party, of which Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda is a member, continues to reject the possibility of early elections.

"We consider the idea of early elections useless. We see no reason for them as parliament is functional. The SDKÚ will not support early elections," the SDKÚ spokesman, Martin Maťko, told The Slovak Spectator.

According to the SME daily, Milan Hort, the head of the SDKÚ caucus, said his party would not deal with "opposition activities that destabilize the currency and the hurt the reputation of Slovakia abroad".

Meanwhile, SMK Chairman Bugár registered surprise that the HZDS submitted an amendment to change elections from June to April.

HZDS spokesman Igor Žvach told The Slovak Spectator that the opposition proposed June as it thought it was the best date "but we are willing to discuss other dates provided an agreement [among political parties] can be forged".

"Bugár is now looking for reasons to explain his previous statement that early elections are the only solution to the current crisis.

Maybe he now thinks that the various agreements in parliament will help the coalition to complete the election term," said Žvach.

In a statement sent to the press, the opposition Free Forum (SF) party, consisting largely of SDKÚ breakaways, said it was concerned with the response by the SMK and the KDH to the opposition's proposal for early elections.

According to the SF, the SMK's and KDH's refusal to support the initiative after expressing support for early elections makes the SF wonder "whether they were not playing a mere political game".

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