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THE KDH EMERGES CONFIDENT FROM ITS NATIONAL PARTY CONGRESS, READY TO PUT TOGETHER THE 2006 GOVERNMENT

Right wing leadership grab?

THE RULING Christian Democratic Party (KDH) is confident that it can lead the right wing following the 2006 national elections.

THE RULING Christian Democratic Party (KDH) is confident that it can lead the right wing following the 2006 national elections.

At the party's national congress held October 22 in Ružomberok, KDH delegates reaffirmed its direction as a conservative party, re-electing Pavol Hrušovský to the top post.

The party also selected its deputy chairmen. Vladimír Palko takes on the party's media relations and external affairs. Rudolf Bauer steps up as deputy chairman for economic issues. Daniel Lipšic will handle internal affairs, while Martin Fronc will be responsible for international issues.

The KDH approved changes to its statutes as well, one of them enabling the party's top board to withdraw membership to party peers charged with a crime.

This change comes in response to Pavol Bielik, mayor of Rača, who is accused of accepting a bribe. A KDH member, Bielik is running in the upcoming regional elections for Bratislava regional councillor.

"I will propose that the top board recommends that the Bratislava [party] branch consider Bielik's candidacy in the regional election," said Hrušovský.


Future in politics


The KDH is arguably among the country's most stable political parties. Operating since 1990 after the fall of Communism, it has been a steady government partner in all cabinets except for the period between 1994 and 1998. It was during this time that Vladimír Mečiar served as prime minister. Mečiar, the leader of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), is widely seen in the West as responsible for taking Slovakia into international isolation.

At its national party meeting, KDH Chairman Hrušovský rejected any post-election cooperation with Mečiar and the HZDS.

"Cooperating with Mečiar's movement as long as he leads the party is not acceptable for the KDH," he said.

The reason for the KDH's firm stance against Mečiar has to do with amnesties the former PM issued in 1998 when, for a brief period, Mečiar also acted as Slovakia's president.

Mečiar issued amnesties that halted the investigation into several suspected crimes, including one into the kidnapping of the former Slovak President Michal Kováč's son, Michal Kováč, Jr., in 1995.

"The KDH will never lose the memory nor the conviction that immoral amnesties must be cancelled," said Hrušovský.

Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda also pronounced a public rejection of Mečiar. Dzurinda's party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), has been accused of forging secret deals with the HZDS to help keep Dzurinda's minority government in power.

In an October 23 discussion show at TA3 news channel, the PM said, "There's one thing that the citizens can be sure of. I will never be in a government with Mr Mečiar."

The prime minister insisted, however, that refusing cooperation with the HZDS was not due to personal antipathy between him and Mečiar but because of the fact that the programmes of the two parties were incompatible.

According to Dzurinda, it would be best when the core of the future government included the SDKÚ, the KDH, and the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK).

However, the KDH is not planning to run in a bloc of parties in the next elections, confident that it is strongest among the right wing contingent.

According to Hrušovský, the KDH is responsible for the positive changes in the country, such as the flat tax, a measure that has brought Slovakia international acknow-ledgement and attracted many investors.

The strength of the party, Hrušovský thinks, is in its sticking to its principles, even in situations the KDH's popularity is harmed.

Whether the KDH will become a decisive right-wing force after the 2006 elections is unclear. However, together with the SMK, the KDH remains the strongest party according to voter support polls.

"Confidence means saying today that the KDH wants to win the next elections. Winning the elections, however, does not have to mean that the party will get the most [support], but rather putting together the new government," KDH Deputy Chairman Daniel Lipšic told the national congress in Ružomberok.

Although the KDH has accumulated around 10 to 12 percent of voter support, polls indicate that left wing Smer led by Robert Fico is by far the most popular party. Fico bases his political agenda around criticism of the current government.

According to Lipšic of the KDH, Smer will not fare very well in the 2006 elections.

In a play on words that refers to the three strikes and you're out system, Lipšic said that Fico should not be given more weight than he deserves.

"Robert Fico is the gentleman who wanted to become the chairman of the [reformed Communist, now merged in Smer] Democratic Left Party (SDĽ). And the result? Nothing. Fico is the gentleman who wanted to become a PM in 2002. And the result was nothing for the second time. Next year, he wants to become a PM. But the KDH and the SMK and the SDKÚ will have more [voter support] than Fico. And Fico will again have nothing - for the third time. And then we will tell him three strikes and you're out," said Lipšic.

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