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Slovakia: Parliament To Meet About Ousted Deputy

Bratislava, 26 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - Slovakia's Parliament meets today in special session to determine whether to return an ousted deputy to his seat. Early this month, opposition party members collected the necessary signatures to call the session, which will determine whether to reinstate former HZDS party member Frantisek Gaulieder.

Gaulieder was thrown out by Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's ruling HZDS ("Movement For A Democratic Slovakia") party in a December 4, 1996 session, after HZDS officials said Gaulieder quit the party.

But international diplomats and a Constitutional Court ruling in July have put pressure on Meciar's-controlled parliament to reinstate the 46-year-old Gaulieder to his seat.

The issue is important for Meciar because it might determine whether other HZDS members will break ranks to vote with the opposition, thereby threatening the coalition.

Several years ago, disgruntled HZDS party members defected and thus ousted Meciar. In order to prevent this from happening again, Meciar required candidates to sign "loyalty oaths" before the 1994 elections. Those signing agreed to resign from parliament, if they defected from HZDS ranks.

Those signing the party oath also agreed that if they defected they would pay the party 5 million Slovak Crowns for election campaign costs, and an additional fee of 50,000 Slovak Crowns.

Gaulieder, who did sign the oath, has refused to resign from his seat. He said a forged letter was presented to parliament asking for his alleged resignation late last year.

Some coalition party members have said publicly they will respect the court decision and vote to return Gaulieder to parliament.

But others, such as attorney Jan Cuper, a member of Meciar's HZDS party, have been critical of the court decision. Cuper said the court justices are biased in favour of the oppositon KDH Christian Democrat party. Officials from the KDH party were instrumental in collecting the necessary signatures to hold today's special session.