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Slovakia: Pro-Reform Pair Quits Leftist Party

Bratislava, 31 January 2002 (RFE/RL) - Slovakia's former finance minister, Brigita Schmognerova, and another prominent member of parliament are leaving their party to protest policies they say are undermining the government. Schmognerova and Peter Weiss said they are leaving the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) because its new leadership is destabilizing the ruling coalition. They said they will remain in parliament as independent deputies, but might found a new party.

The SDL is the second-largest party in the ruling coalition, which is facing elections in the fall.

Schmognerova's hard-line economic policies brought Slovakia closer to European Union membership but lost her popularity. She bowed to pressure and quit as finance minister on 28 January. President Rudolf Schuster appointed Frantisek Hajnovic to replace Schmognerova at the Finance Ministry.

Schmoegnerova and Weiss cited the "destabilisation of the political scene" and the SDL's horse-trading with the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) led by former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar.

"I arrived at the decision after contemplating all possible alternatives and long consultations with the members of the Modern European Socialist Party group [a reform-minded party faction]," Schmognerova said.

Under Pavel Koncos's leadership the SDL has "embarked on a road which leads to the destruction of the current governing coalition and destabilization of the political scene. Unfortunately, it has started flirting with the HZDS," she added.

Party leader Koncos rejected speculation of an imminent split in SDL. "I don't think this will lead to the party split and I don't think that she [Schmognerova] will be followed by many," Koncos said.

The SDL has repeatedly failed in opinion polls to muster the 5 percent threshold necessary to win representation in parliament. It concluded a number of coalitions with the HZDS in regional elections in December, for which it was criticized by right-wing parties in the current government of Mikulas Dzurinda.