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Slovakia: Press Takes Widely Differing Views On Election Outcome

Bratislava, 28 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Slovak daily newspapers today offer widely differing assessments of the opposition's weekend victory in parliamentary elections.

Most dailies recognize the outcome as a clear victory for the four opposition parties which are expected to form a government coalition: the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), the post-Communist Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and the populist Party of Civic Understanding (SOP).

However, the pro-government daily Slovenska Republika proclaims in headlines on its front page today that some party headquarters celebrated prematurely and that the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has "Won Another Parliamentary Election."

In contrast, the opposition daily Sme declares in banner headlines: "HZDS Wins By an Unconvincing Margin, Opposition Prepares to Form Government."

The mass circulation tabloid, Novy Cas, proclaims "Opposition Wins Constitutional Majority" while the leftist daily Pravda says in headlines that a broad coalition government of opposition parties will emerge.

The daily Narodna Obroda, owned by the East Slovak Steelworks in Kosice, appears far from convinced that the tide has turned. The daily avoids any hint of commentary in its lead headline, instead stating the voter turnout (about 85 percent) and close margin of victory for HZDS in the vote count.

Narodna Obroda continues the cautious tone on its editorial page. A commentary by Dag Danis says this year's elections have brought a new division of power in parliament but also a new culture of political behavior of the population, which can generally be seen as positive. Danis says the voters clearly preferred strong political parties and groupings with established programs. For the first time since 1989, new subjects and microparties won virtually nothing.

Narodna obroda concludes: "HZDS to protect itself can only undertake two steps -- make a hard-to-refuse offer to SDL before its congress (next month) and use all available means to divide the competing parties."

A commentary by Stanislav Haber in the pro-Meciar Slovenska Republika says the expected victory of HZDS was confirmed, albeit by seven tenths of a percentage point. He notes that the governing coalition, HZDS and SNS (Slovak National Party) won 57 mandates in the Slovak parliament and the opposition as a whole 93. But, he writes, "elections are about victory. The one who comes in first will form the government. It should not be any different in Slovakia." Haber cautions politicians involved in coalition talks that they should keep in mind the need for stability for a full four years. Haber writes: "If any one of them pulls out, an unresolvable situation will arise which could result in early elections."

Marian Lesko, in a commentary in the opposition daily Sme, focuses on HZDS's expected wooing of SDL: "For many long years it has been known that no one can keep promises made by the chairman of HZDS (Vladimir Meciar). His movement's election outcome gives him the opportunity to continue this style." Lesko writes that if the HZDS chief does decide to include SDL in a coalition, "no one knows where it will all end. The minimum that he can offer is a proposal that neither he nor any of the other ministers who are unacceptable to SDL will be in the next government."

A commentary by Milan Stanislav in the pro-SDL daily Pravda offers a coherent view of the post-election situation: "Slovakia has taken a big step on the road to democracy with peaceful, unmanipulated elections. Now it awaits a second test -- the handing over of power." Stanislav says that it looks like HZDS's chances of forming a stable government are minimal. He says the government's four years in office are connected with a list of failures and suspected crimes "which more or less rules out the possibility of a compromise with any of the opposition parties. "

Stanislav says a four-party coalition of SDK, SDL, SMK and SOP appears to be the most viable choice. He writes: "Among other things, they share a common view on foreign policy as well as a vision on the need to change things in Slovakia."