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Slovakia: Meciar's Promises Contradicted By Rejection Of Observers

Bratislava, 14 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has promised that this month's general elections in Slovakia will be free and fair and that he will respect the result. Slovaks go to the polls on September 25 and 26 in parliamentary elections.

Meciar, speaking at a rally in eastern Slovakia (Sept. 10), pledged that his government would observe the highest standards of decency and fair play in the elections. His remarks were reported by the official Slovak news agency TASR.

He said that after the election, talk in Europe of a lack of democracy in Slovakia will come to an end.

The European Union excluded Slovakia from accession talks last year amid criticism that the government is not fully carrying through democratic reforms. The EU has said the conduct of the elections will be a crucial factor in a review of its relations with Slovakia planned for later this year.

Meanwhile, Slovakia's Central Election Commission rejected (Sept. 11) applications by local and international election observers who were seeking accreditation to monitor the country's ballot later this month.

Those whose applications were refused include Slovak observers in the Association for Just Elections, as well as observers from two non-profit groups from the United States -- the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will be allowed to monitor the ballot.

Election commission member Jan Sarovecky, who is also a member of Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), defended the decision, saying that it does not violate Slovakia's election law.

But the head of the OSCE mission in Slovakia, Kare Vollan, told RFE/RL that the commission made an "unwise decision." Vollan said the OSCE regrets that Slovakia "has not chosen a totally open attitude" and is refusing to "enhance transparency" of the ballot.

Vollan said the commission's decision would certainly be included in the OSCE's report on the election. He said a strong recommendation will be made that Slovakia allow non-partisan observers to monitor the election process in the future.