Knazko: Meciar Wants 'One-Party' Rule
Foreign Minister Blasts PM's 'Authoritarian' Style
United Press International, May 16, 1993
BRATISLAVA -- The governing party in the newly independent republic of Slovakia appeared to be headed for a split Sunday after Foreign Minister Milan Knazko refused to bow to Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's demand for his resignation.
Meciar and Knazko, two formerly close friends who were among the co- founders of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, or HZDS, began sparring publically in late January after HZDS's candidate failed to win in the first round of the country's presidential elections.
Knazko had sharply criticized Meciar's unwillingness to compromise with other parties and his attempt at enforcing party discipline in the voting. "There were already such kinds of statements about the exclusivity of one party for decades and we know pretty well where it led to," Knazko told reporters after the Jan. 27 election.
Meciar, shaken by his first major political defeat since his party won 37 percent of the vote in elections last June, charged that Knazko's statements were partly to blame for presidential candidate Roman Kovac's failure to win the support of all 74 HZDS deputies in the 150-member Parliament.
At the time, the prime minister denied the rampant rumors of an impending split within his party, attributing the conflict on Slovak radio to the "unfulfilling personal ambitions of individuals."
Knazko and fellow HZDS co-founder Rudulf Filkus, who has also criticized the "authoritarian" tendencies in the movement, were then condemned by HZDS regional representatives in a special meeting Jan. 31.
That gathering sparked a secret 11-hour meeting of top HZDS members Feb. 6 during which Meciar characterized Knazko's Foreign Ministry as "the weakest link in the government," Knazko said.
The two leaders have clashed repeatedly on foreign policy since Slovakia became independant Jan. 1, accusing each other of conducting diplomacy without necessary consultations. The HZDS-dominated government Saturday canceled Knazko's planned Feb. 9 mission to Brussels, where he was to meet with EC President Jacques Delors and NATO officials.
Knazko, who is said to have many supporters in HZDS, said he will remain in the HZDS for the time being and adhere to the agreement made Saturday to solve the movement's conflicts out of the public eye.
All talk of forming a new party, Knazko said, is premature.
"Sooner or later HZDS has to decide what its direction is going to be," he said.
Meciar and top HZDS officials have yet to comment on the weekend's activities. Meciar did not appear for his regular Sunday night 10-minute television address, and his deputy made no mention of Knazko.
The conflict within HZDS comes at a time when Meciar has come under increasing attacks for his bullying style and for the rapid deterioration of the Slovak economy.
With the Czech common currency coming to an end midnight Sunday evening -- four months sooner than officials originally planned -- banks are frantically searching for hard currencies reserves to maintain the Slovak Crown's internal convertibility.
In recent days, usually loyal trade unions have threatened to strike, businessmen have warned that government policy has pushed them to the edge of bankrupcy and welfare recipients have complained about not receiving any money since Jan. 1.
"We are just beginners," said Economic Minister Ludovit Cernak in defending the government's actions.
Meanwhile, opposition political parties have been looking for common candidates to run against HZDS's Michal Kobac in the Feb. 15-16 elections, even suggesting Knazko and Filkus.
Although he refused the nomination, Knazko stressed the need for a concensus candidate.
"The broad spectrum of Slovak society cannot be solved by only one political party," he said.