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Slovakia: Defense Minister Wins A Small Victory

Prague, 3 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Slovak government of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar appears to have been forced to retreat temporarily from its attempt to circumvent the Defense Minister in appointing a politically reliable colonel as Army Chief of Staff.

Last month (Aug. 19) Parliamentary Speaker Ivan Gasparovic appointed Colonel Marian Miklus as the new chief of staff ignoring Defense Minister Jan Sitek's choice of Emil Vestenicky.

The outgoing chief of staff, General Jozef Tuchyna had branded that move as unconstitutional and lodged a complaint with the military prosecutor. Tuchyna said that the appointment was politically motivated. Gasparovic belongs to the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), a party led by Prime Minister Meciar.

Tuchyna, who resigned to run for parliament with the post-communist opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) said that under the circumstances he still considered himself to be chief of staff.

But Defense Ministry spokesman Frantisek Kasicky announced yesterday that Major General Julius Humaj will -- for the time being -- serve as acting chief of staff. In an interview with RFE/RL, Kasicky said that Marian Miklus will be permitted to take over from Tuchyna only after the parliamentary elections, to be held on September 25 and 26. Tychyna has yet not responded to Humaj's appointment.

In the meantime, Gasparovic, who is fulfilling certain presidential powers in the absence of an elected president, proceeded to promote Miklus and eight others including two reservists, one of them the prosecutor general, to the rank of general.

The conflict is believed to be linked to a long-standing feud between Defense Minister Sitek of the Slovak National Party (SNS) and state secretary in the Defense Ministry Jozef Gajdos, who is a member of Meciar's HZDS.

Meanwhile, the head of the Association of Slovak Soldiers, Colonel Peter Svec, has made public allegations of corruption concerning the repayment of the Russian debt with the deliveries of military equipment. Svec says Gajdos and Miklus were in charge of the deal.

Asked about these allegations, Defense Ministry spokesman Kasicky said that reporters should speak to Gajdos whom the government had put in charge of the issue of deblocking the debt by importing from Russia MG-29 fighter planes and the S-300 anti-aircraft defense system.

Today, Meciar's spokesman, Marian Kardos, confirmed that at yesterday's cabinet meeting Sitek demanded Gajdos's resignation and that this demand was rejected on the grounds that it was a political appointment made by a coalition member party, HZDS.