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PRESIDENTIAL VOTE: Profiles of the candidates - 2nd part

ON THE IDES of March Slovaks will vote to elect a replacement for President Ivan Gašparovič, whose term expires on June 15. Though the race features 14 presidential candidates, the highest number in the country’s history, opinion polls suggest that the next president will be one of these five: Prime Minister Robert Fico supported by the ruling Smer; Andrej Kiska, a businessman and philanthropist; Milan Kňažko, an actor and leader of the Velvet Revolution; Radoslav Procházka, a former member of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH); or Pavol Hrušovský, backed by the opposition People’s Platform.

ON THE IDES of March Slovaks will vote to elect a replacement for President Ivan Gašparovič, whose term expires on June 15. Though the race features 14 presidential candidates, the highest number in the country’s history, opinion polls suggest that the next president will be one of these five: Prime Minister Robert Fico supported by the ruling Smer; Andrej Kiska, a businessman and philanthropist; Milan Kňažko, an actor and leader of the Velvet Revolution; Radoslav Procházka, a former member of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH); or Pavol Hrušovský, backed by the opposition People’s Platform.

Other candidates running for presidency are: Gyula Bárdos, member of the Party of Hungarian Community; Jozef Behýl, businessman and civil activist; Ján Čarnogurský, former chair of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH); Viliam Fischer, a cardio-surgeon; Ján Jurišta, former Slovak ambassador to Argentina; Stanislav Martinčko, businessman and chair of the Coalition of Citizens of Slovakia; Milan Melník, a scientist; Helena Mezenská, MP for the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities; and Jozef Šimko, mayor of Rimavská Sobota.

The Slovak Spectator provides brief profiles of the presidential candidates.

Gyula Bárdos

Bárdos, born 1958, is the first ethnic Hungarian to run for president. He is running as the nominee of the Party of Hungarian Community (SMK), a non-parliamentary party. Bárdos is backed by a petition featuring 46,625 signatures while he also has 16 signatures from MPs of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), New Majority (NOVA) and the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ). Bárdos is likely to harvest the votes of ethnic Hungarians regardless of whether they incline toward Béla Bugár’s Most-Híd or the SMK. Recent polls already indicate that Bárdos is drawing votes that would otherwise go to Pavol Hrušovský. Bárdos however claims that he aspires to be a candidate for all of the country’s minority groups, as well as all democratically thinking and open-minded people. Bárdos graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy of the Comenius University in Bratislava where he studied Slovak and Hungarian languages. He worked as a reporter for several Hungarian media outlets. He also served as an MP for the Party of Hungarian Coalition between 1998 and 2010. Bárdos currently presides over the Hungarian Communal and Cultural Association in Slovakia – Csemadok. He is married and has two children.

Jozef Behýl

Jozef Behýl, born in 1957, is running as an independent candidate, backed by a petition with 34,130 signatures. He graduated from a pedagogical school and currently owns a real estate company and is active in the non-profit sector. He worked with the Association of Interest Groups, and now chairs the supervisory board of the Civil Parliament association. He also chairs the Permanent Conference of Organisations of the Third Sector. Behýl was a member of the Smer party between 2000 and 2003, which he says he left on his own because of disagreements with the party programme, the SITA newswire wrote. Behýl says he would boost the powers of the president in Slovakia while he would oblige the head of state to submit his report on the state of the republic while pointing out the most serious phenomena.

Ján Čarnogurský

Čarnogurský was born in January 1, 1944 in Bratislava. He is a graduate of the law school at Charles University in Prague. After graduation he started working as an attorney in Bratislava. To most voters he is known as a former dissident and the founding member of the KDH. He suffered under communism in the 1980s. First, after he acted as an attorney in a political process, he was expelled from the bar in 1981, and he made his living as a driver and a corporate lawyer. Between 1987 and 1989, he was unemployed. Under communism Čarnogurský maintained close relations with the underground Catholic Church and provided various legal advisory services to religious and opposition activists. In 1988 he was one of the organisers of the so-called Candle Manifestation that took place in Bratislava on March 25 to promote human rights and religious freedom in Czechoslovakia. For this and his other activities as a dissident, Čarnogurský was imprisoned in August 1989 before being freed during the Velvet Revolution. After the fall of the totalitarian regime, Čarnogurský’s political career advanced at a fast pace. Almost immediately after the revolution he initiated the founding of the KDH in Slovakia and he was elected the movement’s chairman at the founding session in February 1990. He held the post for the next 10 years, and in 2000 he was replaced by Hrušovský.

Čarnogurský is perhaps the most controversial among the presidential candidates. He is praised for his part in bringing down communism in Czechoslovakia and later in bringing down Mečiar. However he is also widely criticised for his oft-declared passion for Russia, for his links with the top representatives in the Catholic Church, for his opinion about the wartime Slovak state, a satellite of the Nazi Germany (his father was a member of the parliament of that state), and for his ultra-conservative stance on issues like abortion and homosexual partnerships.

Viliam Fischer

Fischer, a doctor and professor at the Department of Cardiology of the Slovak University of Medicine in Bratislava, was born in Bratislava in 1938. He is an independent candidate who collected 17,552 signatures to run for the presidency. Fischer has made several previous attempts at entering the political arena. He chose the campaign slogan “vote with your heart”, and was the first physician in Slovakia to successfully perform a heart transplant back in March 1998, and since 1980 he has participated in more than 5,000 heart surgeries, SITA reported. Fischer was on the list of candidates of the Change from the Bottom (ZZ) party during the 2012 parliamentary elections, with an agenda focusing on a healthy lifestyle and support for sports. However, the party gathered only 1.29 percent of the vote and failed to make it into parliament. Fischer also ran for parliament on the Movement for Democratic Slovakia’s (HZDS) candidate list on the 125th position back in 1998, again without any success, Sme reported. As a presidential candidate this time around, Fischer has focused primarily on the health-care sector, suggesting that at least €5 billion is hidden within the health-care system, and with effective financing no additional resources would be needed from the state.

Ján Jurišta

Jurišta, born 1944, is a nominee of the non-parliamentary Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS), although he insists he is not a member. KSS boss Jozef Hrdlička claimed that his party’s candidate collected more than 16,600 signatures under the petition to support his candidacy. Jurišta graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy of the Comenius University (UK) in Bratislava where he studied Spanish and Slovak. During his studies he attended a language course in Cuba. He worked at the Latin American department of the Radio Prague’s foreign broadcast and also as a journalist in Ecuador. Later he served as a diplomat in Latin America. After 1993 he became Slovakia’s ambassador to Argentina, and was also responsible for Uruguay and Paraguay. Jurišta was active in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, KSS and the Party of the Democratic Left, the successor of the Communist party.

Stanislav Martinčko

Martinčko, born 1952, is a nominee of the non-parliamentary Coalition of Citizens of Slovakia, established in June 2012 in Košice. He qualified after submitting 18,750 petition signatures, the SITA newswire wrote. Martinčko graduated from the secondary vocational school in Moldava nad Bodvou and worked as a driver, and later he was active in the scrap metal business. Martinčko is currently general director of Košice-based company Kemax, which deals with processing and producing of trapezoidal sheets. If elected, Martinčko said he would be an active president who would talk to people while focusing on issues such as corruption, problems with courts, Roma issues and poverty. He indeed suggested that in order to treat problems of the judiciary, the courts should be abolished and new ones established while employing completely new people.

Helena Mezenská

The only woman running for the presidency is Mezenská, born in 1973, a single mother from Poprad with a 19-year-old daughter. Despite serving as deputy of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), she is running as an independent candidate with 22,057 petition signatures supporting her candidacy. Mezenská has made a series controversial statements and she attracted the most attention when, in an interview with topky.sk, she suggested that after the summer she began eating much less, instead taking her nourishment from the universe. After she announced her candidacy, her own party opted not to support her. Since the 2012 parliament elections, Mezenská has been serving as an MP and a member of Parliamentary Committee for EU Affairs and the Parliamentary Committee for the Economy, Construction and Transport. She also served as an independent MP in the Poprad municipality from 2004 to 2010, the SITA newswire reported. Mezenská supports direct democracy and suggests that voters should decide who holds most of the leading posts at state bodies. At the same time, she suggests that people are uniformed about public affairs.

Jozef Šimko

Šimko, the current mayor of Rimavská Sobota, a town in south central Slovakia, was born in 1951. He is running with the support of the practically unknown Party of Modern Slovakia (SMS), which is led by former Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Vice-chairman Milan Urbáni. Yet Šimko managed to collect the signatures of at least 15,000 people for the petition to support his candidacy, SITA reported, though the exact number is not available. In the past Šimko served as deputy chairman of yet another splinter party of the HZDS, the Movement for Democracy (HZD) founded by current President Ivan Gašparovič. Šimko in the past held senior positions within the management of Banská Bystrica Region. Šimko, who is divorced and now lives with a partner, has two children. He studied at Czechoslovakia’s police academy in Bratislava and later he graduated from the school of investigation from the Communist-era police academy. Despite his educational background he claims he has never been a member of the former communist secret service (ŠtB). Initially, he worked as police officer then as regional head of the police department, a company lawyer as well as the boss of a private firm, according to Sme.

Šimko promised, if elected, to use his presidential powers to boost employment in poor regions, though he has not specified how. Šimko, however, doubts the positive impact of euro adoption for Slovakia, according to TA3.

Milan Melník

Melník, born in 1938, is running for president for the second time. He ran in the 2009 presidential race with the support of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), receiving 45,985 votes, or 2.45 percent. This time Melník is running as an independent candidate, with the support of Panslavic Union, Conservative Slovakia and Slovak Economic Society – Independent Association of Economists of Slovakia. He claims he has never been a member of any political party. Melník studied inorganic chemistry at the Slovak University of Technology’s Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology. He has become a noted scientist who is considered a founder of bioinorganic chemistry in the former Czechoslovakia and Slovakia, SITA wrote. Melník was listed in the world encyclopedia in 2005 as a scientific personality, and belongs among the most cited Slovak authors, according to his website. He currently works as university teacher at Pharmaceutical Faculty of the Comenius University in Bratislava and St Elizabeth's School of Medicine and Social Work in Bratislava.

Related article:
PRESIDENTIAL VOTE: Profiles of the candidates - 1st part

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