Slovak Government Collapses
Political Crisis Wracks Europe's Newest County
United Press International, November 9, 1993
Slovakia lurched Tuesday into the biggest political crisis in its ten-month history as the president and prime minister solidified battle lines over the appointment of a new coalition which would give the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar a badly-needed parliamentary majority.
Meciar withdrew his new cabinet line-up, fulfilling his earlier promise that if President Michal Kovac refused to appoint a Meciar confidant, Ivan Lexa, as privatization minister the entire government would stand down.
"Despite your personal promises, you inexplicably and for personal reasons, questioned Ivan Lexa's nomination," Meciar wrote in a short letter to Kovac. The prime minister added it would be "impossible" to build a new coalition government after Kovac's decision late Monday.
Kovac, whose constitutional powers entitle him to sanction all cabinet appointments, approved four other candidates including a new economics minister, but said he had no confidence in Lexa, whom he has twice refused to appoint to state offices this year.
Meciar said in his letter that new coalition talks would be held and that a new cabinet would be presented to the president for approval.
However, it is unclear how the embattled prime minister, who masterminded Slovakia's independence and still towers over the political scene, can save face in light of Kovac's decision, the clearest indication yet of the simmering rift between the two men who together helped found the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, or HZDS.
"I should feel offended because I was repeatedly submitted a proposal which everybody knew beforehand I would not accept," Kovac told journalists after his announcement on Monday.
Opposition politicians criticized Meciar for putting Kovac under pressure, knowing what the outcome would be.
"The president used his constitutional right," said Peter Weiss, the leader of Party of the Democratic Left. "The only thing that's needed is the name of a new candidate."
Meciar, whose party has suffered a series of important defections and has slumped in public opinion ratings since the beginning of the year, needs a parliamentary majority to dispel talk of perpetual political instability in Slovakia, a factor which observers say has kept away vital foreign investment.
Jan Ducky, a HZDS member and a former communist industry minister, was appointed economics minister, and Jaroslav Paska takes over as education minister, a post which has been vacant for months.
Kovac also approved four new deputy prime ministers, two from each of the coalition parties, but called on parliament to review the usefulness of this arrangement.
The coalition between HZDS and the Slovak National Party, or SNS, would have given Meciar control of 80 of parliament's 150 seats.
SNS had been the previous coalition partner but left the alliance in March, accusing Meciar of "authoritarian tendencies." During coalition talks which dragged on throughout the summer, Meciar accused Ludovit Cernak, the SNS chairman, of fraud, leading to a slander charge against Meciar.
However, the two agreed to bury past differences and agreed a new coalition on Oct. 19. "We considered the coalition as the optimum way to lower tensions in society and solve problems," Cernak said.