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Slovakia: Meciar Bids Farewell To Government, Politics

Prague, 1 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said last night he is leaving government and, perhaps, politics as well.

Meciar ruled out serving in a new government in any capacity. He said: " was my personal decision that I will not accept a request to form a government or take any role in a new government in any form. Moreover, I do not intend to apply for any post in any future government."

Meciar said also he will not serve as a deputy in parliament so as not to hide behind parliamentary immunity. He insisted he has not financially profited from being in politics, but said the opposition is threatening to pursue him over privatization.

Meciar made the announcement during a program on state TV entitled "What's next, Mr. Premier?" He said he would formally resign when the newly elected parliament convenes on October 29.

"My time is up, Meciar said, adding, "the Slovak road ended with these elections...the forces which won never recognized this road ... of transformation with a specifically Slovak approach".

Meciar said the weekend elections were free and democratic, they marked "a historic landmark." In a revealing remark, he added, "we can not... put up resistance as if it were the outcome of parliamentary intrigues; we must respect the decision of the will of the citizens of Slovakia."

Meciar said the voters have put the state in the hands of people who opposed the creation of an independent Slovakia nearly six years ago. He predicted widespread purges at all levels.

Meciar said his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which won the largest number of votes but fell far short of a majority, wants to form a government. He said he had told Speaker of Parliament, Ivan Gasparovic, the number two in HZDS, that he should call on "a neutral person" not from the political leadership of HZDS but from its rank and file to try to form a government. Meciar said: "HZDS cannot simply resign from the (first place) position it gained in the elections. It lost one quarter of its votes, which is tantamount to political defeat, from which I am drawing conclusions for myself."

But Meciar conceded that there is little chance of HZDS succeeding in forming a majority coalition government and that in all likelihood the new government will consist of SDK, the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and the Party for Civic Understanding (SOP). These four parties won 93 of the 150 seats in parliament. As Meciar put it, "these parties will have a constitutional majority, that is the reality, they can elect a president, constitute all organs, carry out personnel changes... but of course this will not bring political stability."

Meciar said that if HZDS fails to form a government by November 15, Gasparovic should call on someone from the second largest party, the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDK) to form a government. In his words, "we have no intention or interest in stretching things out."

Meciar made no mention of whether he would run for president. He has been widely touted as a likely candidate. The new parliament, soon after convening, is expected to amend the constitution to enable the direct election of a president. Presidential elections are likely to be held in December or January. But Meciar also said the former opposition, which has now more than the three fifths majority required to amend the constitution, will ignore its pledge to introduce direct presidential elections because it has enough votes in parliament to elect anyone it wants to the presidency.

Two (SDK and SMK) of the four former opposition parties announced today that direct presidential elections remain their priority. Slovakia has been without a president since March when Michal Kovac's five-year term expired. Meciar's HZDS blocked the election of a successor. The presidential powers are currently divided between Meciar, his cabinet and Gasparovic.

The populist former-boxer, who opened his weekly cabinet meetings with sing-along, ended his allegedly last TV appearance as Prime Minister by singing "With the Lord God, I take my leave, I never hurt any of you..."

Reaction to Meciar's speech from the former opposition has been derisive. Christian Democrat (KDH) leader Jan Carnogursky said today decency was never Meciar's strong point, adding that Meciar's appearance on TV last night would "definitely be his last".

Meciar's likely successor as Prime Minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, labeled Meciar's TV appearance as "sad theater", but said that Meciar's "announcement of departure from politics means a relief for Slovakia." In Dzurinda's words, "his government led the state to the brink of economic catastrophe, opened up Slovakia to the mafia and now he wags his finger at the public for wanting a change."