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Dzurinda to give up SDKÚ chairmanship

THE LONG-serving leader of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), Mikuláš Dzurinda, is to quit the chairmanship of the party he founded. His decision comes after the SDKÚ suffered a severe setback in the March 10 general election, which saw its support plunge to 6.1 percent, only just above the 5-percent threshold required to win seats in parliament. The SDKÚ won 15.4 percent of the vote and 28 seats in the June 2010 election; it will now have just 11 seats.

THE LONG-serving leader of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), Mikuláš Dzurinda, is to quit the chairmanship of the party he founded. His decision comes after the SDKÚ suffered a severe setback in the March 10 general election, which saw its support plunge to 6.1 percent, only just above the 5-percent threshold required to win seats in parliament. The SDKÚ won 15.4 percent of the vote and 28 seats in the June 2010 election; it will now have just 11 seats.

Dzurinda, who served as prime minister for eight years between 1998 and 2006, announced that he would not seek re-election at a party congress scheduled for May 19, but said he would remain an MP for the party, the SITA newswire reported. Observers commented that Dzurinda should have quit the leadership much sooner.

“I am taking full responsibility for the inability of the centre-right parties to form a government, as well as the failure of the SDKÚ to contribute in the way it has the potential to,” Dzurinda said.

Dzurinda said he would support the leadership bid of Lucia Žitňanská, one of his party vice-chairs.

In comments broadcast on TV Markíza the morning after the election, Dzurinda admitted that the number of preferential votes he personally had received also represented a defeat.

Žitňanská, who said before the election that she would seek the leadership if she received enough preferential votes, collected 103,517, the highest number of any SDKÚ candidate, while Dzurinda attracted only 27,242.

Political analyst Ján Baránek said that considering the election results, Dzurinda’s move was logical but that “it should have come much sooner, at the least before the elections, when it was already clear that the SDKÚ’s support was falling”.

The SDKÚ met to discuss its election performance on March 12, but the meeting lasted only 45 minutes, with members already anticipating that Dzurinda would relinquish his position.

Former SDKÚ deputy Tomáš Galbavý, who leads the Nitra branch of the party, said that Dzurinda should have withdrawn from the top post much sooner, the Sme daily reported. Galbavý compared the election results to Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo.

“I have read quote a lot about Waterloo, but now I have experienced it on my own skin,” said Galbavý.

Dzurinda rejected parallels between the SDKÚ and another party led by a former prime minister, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). The party of Vladimír Mečiar, which dominated Slovak politics in the 1990s but was consigned to political oblivion on March 10, when it attracted less than 1 percent of the vote.

Darina Malová, head of the school of political sciences at Comenius University, said that the SDKÚ would be able to win back support if it undertook the necessary organisational and personnel changes, and altered its method of communication.

According to Malová, one of the party’s problems was that its leaders, meaning Dzurinda and deputy chair Ivan Mikloš, were unable to communicate effectively with outgoing Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, another deputy chair of the party, and thus provide her with strong support.

“It was a great strategic mistake that these people did not find a way to [achieve] an effective and mutually beneficial co-existence,” Malová told The Slovak Spectator.

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