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Slovakia: Opposition Claims Petition Success

Bratislava, 18 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Slovakia's opposition says it has collected more than the 350,000 signatures needed to force a referendum on direct election of the president.

The Reuter news agency quotes Ivan Simko, vice-chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), as telling journalists in Bratislava today that the signature-collection drive has succeeded. He declined to disclose a precise number. Under Slovak law, a petition with 350,000 or more signatures requires the president to call a referendum within 90 days.

The opposition seeks to prevent Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar from assuming presidential powers before presidential elections scheduled for March 1998. The ruling coalition, headed by Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), and the opposition have been unable to agree on a presidential candidate. Neither has been able to muster the three-fifths majority necessary in the 150-seat house to push through its own choice. If a stalemate continues, Meciar would assume presidential powers.