Premier Dzurinda's position under threat
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Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda bowed to the inevitable as Parliament voted to recognise an independent Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) caucus. Nine KDH MPs have left Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK). The SDK is a coalition of parties within the ruling coalition, established prior to the 1998 elections to defeat Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS).
On Monday 27 November, an amendment was made to the government coalition pact. It remains unclear whether the KDH is now a full member of the coalition, although the party will have a seat on the coalition board. The justice minister and former KDH leader, Ján Carnogurský, went so far as to claim that the move officially puts an end to the SDK.
The decision by the KDH MPs to quit the SDK followed the foundation congress of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ). This party was established by Mikuláš Dzurinda to fight the 2002 election as the successor to the SDK. Dzurinda's position is now under severe threat.
Dzurinda became Premier on the basis of his leadership of the SDK, the biggest parliamentary party with 42 seats. He now appears to have the unreserved support of only 19 MPs—those who have followed him into the SDKÚ. Another constituent party of the SDK, the Democratic Party (DS), is now openly threatening to quit, taking with it a further six MPs.
Interior minister considers ban on HZDS
Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said he would consider banning Slovakia's most popular political party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, if its members are convicted of serious crimes carried out during the party's period in government. He told a press conference that banning the HZDS in such circumstances would be in accordance with the law on party membership.
A number of crimes are alleged to have been committed by the Slovak Intelligence Sevice (SIS) during the HZDS-led government of Vladimír Mečiar, including conspiracy to overthrow President Michal Kováč, the abduction of Kováč's son and the planting of bombs at KDH rallies.
Slovak newspapers were quick to condemn Pittner's position. The liberal daily SME, which is generally supportive of the Government, said banning the HZDS would be beyond the bounds of acceptable political rivalry and would solve nothing. The HZDS-supporting Nový Den accused the Government of mounting an inquisition against Mečiar's party.
Pittner's outburst came on the same day that the former director of the SIS, Ivan Lexa, was charged with the abduction of Michal Kováč Jr in August 1995. Lexa is widely believed to have fled the country after he was released on bail last year, and is the subject of an international arrest warrant. He was a close political ally of Mečiar at the time of the abduction.
A bitter rift between Mečiar and Kováč dominated Slovak politics in the latter half of the nineties. Lexa subsequently became an MP for Mečiar's HZDS. A proposal to charge Vladimír Mečiar with abuse of public office has been made by the Chief Investigator, Jaroslav Ivor. The charges would relate to bonuses of SKK (Slovak koruna) 13.7 million (approximately USD 300,000) paid to cabinet ministers in the period between 1993 and 1998.
And in other news...
- Slovakia has introduced visas for Russian and Belarusian citizens as of 1 January 2001. The move cancels bilateral agreements on visa-free travel signed in 1995. Holders of diplomatic passports will be unaffected. Slovakia is aiming to align its visa practice with that of the EU member countries.
- The trial of a Ukrainian man for the murder of the former economy minister, Ján Ducký, has been abandoned due to lack of evidence. Ducký was shot in the head near his home in Bratislava in January 1999. Oleg Mikhailovich Tkhoryk had pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Mr Ducký, who was the head of Slovak Gas (SPP). The court's decison prompted a call from the opposition HZDS for the resignation of the Minister of the Interior, Ladislav Pittner.
- SPP has postponed plans for a 30 per cent increase in wholesale gas prices until January. The government intervened amid fears that such an increase could prove fatal for the planned privatisation of the gas monopoly. Business and unions also condemned the planned increase. SPP favours a 15 per cent increase in domestic gas prices as of 1 January.
- Slovakia has banned imports of German beef. The ban was imposed on Tuesday 28 November, following reports at the weekend that two cattle infected with BSE had been discovered in Germany. The State Veterinary Administration gave assurances that beef was only imported from safe countries. It also said that bone meal has not been imported for four years, although it is still produced in Slovakia according to "very strict rules."
- The Ministry of Health and Slovak medical authorities have no plans to legalise euthanasia. In a statement made in light of the Dutch parliament's move to legalise mercy-killing, the Health Ministry said any such move would require an amendment to the constitution.
- The Czech Premier is to receive an extra Christmas present from Slovakia's brewers. Miloš Zeman is to be sent a copy of a new history of Slovak brewing entitled "In the Course of Time." According to Michal Pramuk of the Slovak Beer Producers Association, the book proves that beer was being produced in Slovakia long before the fine art reached the Czech lands. Zeman came under fire in the Slovak media for daring to suggest that Slovak beer was only good for cleaning dentures.
Robin Sheeran, 1 December 2000
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