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Slovakia: Opposition Seeks Special Parliament Session

Bratislava, 7 Aug. 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The Slovak parliamentary opposition is seeking to force a showdown with the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar in the case of ousted deputy Frantisek Gaulieder.

Opposition deputies are now gathering signatures for a petition requiring the holding of a special session of the legislature late this month to discuss the fate of Gaulieder, who was a dissident member of Meciar's own HZDS party.

He lost his mandate in a parliamentary vote last December after he purportedly offered his resignation by letter. Gaulieder says the letter was a forgery, and that he did not offer to give up his seat.

The opposition has taken up his cause because it believes his dilemma carries an important message for the development of democracy in Slovakia. If one deputy critical of the government can be ousted against his will, then every deputy in the legislature is at risk. The 46-year-old Gaulieder last year broke ranks with his colleagues in the ruling party and chose to vote with the opposition on some occasions. His end after that was swift: he was outed on December 4.

An RFE/RL correspondent in Slovakia reports that the opposition has the numbers to require a special session to be held, but not to force the re-instatement of Gaulieder. Nevertheless, there is a ground swell of international support for the opposition's view in the Gaulieder case: French diplomats for instance went out of their way to praise a ruling of the Slovak constitutional court last month which found that Gaulieder's rights had been violated when his mandate was cancelled.

The opposition is hoping that the international pressure will cause the Meciar government to reconsider its position. As an aspirant to membership of the European economic and security structures, namely the European Union and NATO, the government is sensitive to Western opinion. EU officials have previously noted that there must be proper parliamentary procedures in Slovakia if that country is to gain admission to the EU, and foreign diplomats in the capital Bratislava are closely watching the Gaulieder case to see if opposition voices can be heard in Slovakia's parliament.

An official of the opposition KDH Christian Democrats says that the 30 signatures of deputies calling for a special session will be presented to parliament chief Ivan Gasparovic on August 22. The session would take place within 7 days after signatures are presented.

A regular session of parliament is scheduled for the beginning of next month in any case. At present many parliament members as well as Premier Meciar are on vacation and away from Bratislava.

Our correspondent notes that Gaulieder is not the first dissenting party member to feel the wrath of the HZDS party leaders. In 1994 attempts were made to ditch a circle of almost a dozen dissenting HZDS deputies, including former prime minister Jozef Moravcik, but these survived in parliament and went on to found the Democratic Union party.