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Slovakia: Prime Minister Designate Has Democratic Vision

Bratislava, 28 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The man most likely to become Slovakia's next prime minister is Mikulas Dzurinda. Dzurinda heads Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) which, together with three smaller opposition parties, won 93 of 150 parliamentary seats in the last weekend's elections.

Vladimir Meciar will probably take one month before his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) surrenders power. HZDS gained the most votes in the elections but is unlikely to muster enough support to form a majority coalition government.

In the meantime, Dzurinda plans to discuss the formation a new coalition government with the post-Communist Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and the left of center, populist Party for Civic Understanding (SOP).

After initial results were published Sunday, Dzurinda announced his readiness to become prime minister. He said SDK, which won 42 seats, has a concrete view of how to establish a democratic regime in which the new opposition would also have a role to play. He said Meciar's HZDS, with 43 seats, could be given a post of deputy speaker of parliament.

Dzurinda told reporters he wants to use the 30-day pause until the new parliament is called into session clearly to document who should be in the new government.

In a brief interview in the opposition daily Sme today, Dzurinda said he would do everything in his power to ensure that a new government is formed as soon as possible. He noted that Slovakia does not yet have a budget for next year and that the state treasury is "completely empty while the finance minister is borrowing at a 30 percent interest rate to pay civil servants' salaries." Dzurinda said the job of the prime minister will be a difficult one under these circumstances.

The same day, Dzurinda held talks with the leaders of the other three opposition parties and then announced that putting Slovakia back on track for membership in NATO and the EU would be his top foreign policy priority.

Dzurinda together with the other opposition leaders demanded a freeze on further privatizations. In his words, "those in power until now have lost the mandate to undertake such measures and SDK, SDL, SMP and SOP are resolved to use all legal means to ensure that measures harmful to the state are repealed." Similarly, Dzurinda demanded that civil servants ensure that no documents are destroyed in an effort to cover-up evidence "of the illegal activities of certain people".

Until the establishment of SDK last year through merger of five disparate opposition parties, Dzurinda was a leading member of former Prime Minister Jan Carnogursky's Christian Democratic Movement (KDH). He served as Slovakia's Deputy Transportation Minister prior to the 1992 elections when he was elected to parliament. Those elections led to the breakup of Czechoslovakia seven months later.

Dzurinda is a 43-year-old native of the traditionally conservative Spis region of northeastern Slovakia.