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Slovakia: Opposition Turns To Council Of Europe For Help

Bratislava, 5 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Opposition leaders in Slovakia say they will turn to the Council of Europe for help in trying to overturn yesterday's parliamentary decision to strip a dissident deputy of his mandate.

Late last night, parliament voted 77 to 59 to revoke the mandate of deputy Frantisek Gaulieder. Gaulieder quit the governing Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) at the beginning of November because he disagreed with the methods of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's government.

The leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Jan Carnogursky, told a news conference today the decision to oust the deputy for political reasons ranked Slovakia's parliamentary democracy at the same level as countries like Serbia and Belarus.

KDH deputy Jan Figel said a similar incident recently occurred in Turkey, when a deputy representing a Kurdish minority was stripped of his mandate by the parliamentary majority. Figel said invervention by the Council of Europe was effective and Turkey changed its laws.

KDH said it is hoping for similar intervention by the Council of Europe in the Gaulieder case. Carnogursky said it is appealing to all the pertinent departments in the Council of Europe and sending letters to ambassadors of all countries belonging to the EU.

Figel also said he fears yesterday's parliamentary decision "definitely shuts the door to NATO" for Slovakia. He said the Council of Europe has already threatened to take away Slovakia's voting rights for not upholding democratic principles. He added that now Slovakia can lose its membership rights as well.

Gaulieder was a founding member of HZDS and sat on the parliamentary committee overseeing the country's counter-intelligence service (SIS). He accused SIS of covering up its involvement in last year's abduction of Michal Kovac Jr., the son of the country's President, Michal Kovac.

He refused to bow to pressure to resign his parliamentary seat after he quit the party. But Slovak Parliamentary Chairman Ivan Gasparovic said he had received a letter of resignation from Gaulieder. The letter was dated November 26. Gaulieder denied writing, or sending, the letter.

Two leading Slovak newspapers, "Pravda" and the opposition daily, "Sme," today cited leaked information indicating HZDS deputies were required to sign documents prior to election that required them to give up seats if they quit the party.

At the end of last week, Meciar was quoted as saying "one deputy has quit and I expect at any moment that I will have a document indicating he will resign his seat, because I already have one such document. His signature has been properly verified."

Sme said when the party leader required the promise from his candidates prior to election, he was contravening the country's constitution. According to the constitution, deputies are required to fulfill their mandate, "according to their conscience and beliefs and are without any coercion."

RFE/RL's Slovak service says Meciar himself had switched party parliamentary afilliation, when he left the Politicians against Violence for HZDS. But the leader of the Slovak Workers' Party, Jan Slota, says deputies who are elected to represent a given party or movement should stay in it for the whole electoral term.

HZDS Deputy Jan Cuper called Gaulieder a traitor and said "decent people don't talk to traitors. Some morality has to be brought into politics in this country."

As the governing coalition deputies announced their votes, cries of "Lukashenka, Lukashenka..." reverberated through the parliamentary chamber from opposition benches last night.