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Slovakia: Presidential Countdown Clock Reflects Controversy

Bratislava, 30 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - A large countdown clock has appeared in downtown Bratislava -- across from the Presidential Palace. Our Bratislava correspondent reports the clock was erected on a six-story building -- unannounced over the weekend -- by supporters of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar.

The clock countsdown the number of days left in office for President Michal Kovac, or, at least, is a reflection of the math the Meciar government is using.

No less controversial than the clock, is the calculation of Kovac's remaining days in office.

The clock indicates February 15 is Kovac's last day, as he was elected to a five-year term on February 15, 1993.

But, Kovac supporters say his term ends March 2 -- the day of his inauguration five years ago.

According to law, the presidential election must be called 60 days before the president's term ends. Meciar says that means December -- the opposition says that mean January.

The opposition hopes to place the issue of direct presidential election to a referendum. Interior Minister Gustav Krajci refused to allow such a question on a March referendum ballot, and the referendum failed, after an opposition-led boycott. Slovakia's State Prosecutor only yesterday dropped charges of wrong-doing against Krajci, citing a lack of evidence.

Slovakia's Parliament elects the president, and opposition leaders fear a deadlock over Kovac's successor could result in Meciar assuming executive powers.

A political popularity poll appeared in Slovak dailies yesterday, suggesting that Meciar is the country's second-most popular politician, behind Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster. Constitutional Court Judge Milan Cic was third and President Kovac fourth. Former Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Christian Democrat Party, Jan Carnogursky, finished in eleventh place in the poll.