1. The Czech Republic: SUSPICIOUS ROOTS OF THE
by Petruska Sustrova
2. Belarus: WHOLESALE OR RETAIL
by Paulyuk Bykowski
3. Slovakia: DROP OF MECIAR'S POPULARITY
by Zoltan Mikes
Scandal number one broke out in the summer of 2002, towards the end of July when the former General Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Karel Srba, was taken into custody. The charges against him sounded more than incredible: Srba was alleged to have recruited an assassin to murder Sabina Slonkova, a journalist working for the daily newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes. News of Srba's arrest was issued by the Czech News Agency CTK and immediately made front-page news in all the media. Hiring an assassin of a journalist, in other words, with undoubtedly political motives, was something entirely new. And many of us understood straight away that such a deed ---fortunately unaccomplished --- pushed the Czech Republic in the direction towards the impenetrable East on the political map.
Srba's arrest was like an explosion of a Semtex charge with which the criminal, known as "Lemon," intended to get rid of Slonkova; it was like an earthquake. Politicians, journalists, and the public asked themselves: How is this possible? We thought we lived in a civilized country where such a thing was out of the question. We believed that the Czech Republic was undergoing a transformation. True, mistakes were being made, but compared with other post-communist countries, it was fairly successful, and political murders were neither engineered nor committed in our country; only the mafia assassinated its rivals.
First came the Czech House
scandal. This hotel-type establishment, leased to a Czech firm by the Czech
Embassy in Moscow, in the end cost Srba his job at the Ministry. Journalists
pointed out that the lease cost the state millions, possibly tens of millions,
and that the contract which the
Ministry had concluded with the firm in question could not hold water. For example, it guaranteed the firm the right of first option for the Czech House, which was illegal since the Ministry had no right to take such a decision. Moreover, the Ministry had engaged a solicitor who, incidentally, represented the other party as well (as a result, the Bar Association disbarred him).
Even though the police started to investigate the whole matter, it had not reached any conclusion when Srba was taken into custody. For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and for [Foreign Minister] Jan Kavan, the Czech House affair was settled when Srba resigned from the Ministry; at the time, Kavan made the inopportune statement that Srba had raised the standard of a state official to a higher level by resigning. Kavan, moreover, pointed out that Srba was leaving because he had misinformed his Minister and not because he had acted unlawfully.
Another scandal linked with Srba's name was the compulsory dismissal of the Director of Stirin Castle, an establishment coming under the administration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Stirin Director, Mr. Hruby, claimed that he had been pressed to manufacture faked documents in Srba's name to demonstrate that Josef Zielenec, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, had been bribing journalists. But Hruby finally lost his court case and had to apologize to the official whom he had called a blackmailer. A recording of a telephone conversation during which the official in question was said to have pressured Hruby was not accepted by the court as evidence of coercion and blackmail.
To add insult to injury, in the spring, journalists at the Mlada fronta Dnes drew attention to the fact that Karel Srba had paid more than ten million [Krona] for a luxurious property. How had he been able to accumulate such a sum on a salary of no more than forty thousand crowns a month, they wondered. Srba's mother had a ready answer: her deceased husband had left her all that money she had stored in a box under the bed. She did not even know how much there was in it. No wonder journalists considered these allegations as an excuse, indeed, as derision.
Institutions That Failed
But that is not the end of
the affair: it was discovered that while working at the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs Karel Srba was also an agent of military intelligence under the
pseudonym "Salima" and that one of his tasks had been to recruit other
such agents for the diplomatic service and send them to countries of the
former Soviet Union. Was Minister Kavan aware of all this?
He says no. Did he know that one of Srba's tasks had been to pass on information about Jaroslav Basta, who at that time was a Minister without portfolio?
When everything is added up, Srba appears to be a villain with virtually unlimited power. But if we know even just a little bit about the way institutions and political power function, it goes without saying that he could not operate without some kind of political protection. This must have come from the former chief adviser of Milos Zeman, Miroslav Slouf. Journalists frequently referred to Slouf as a dubious eminence grise in Zeman's Cabinet, and it was finally Vladimir Spidla, who took over the post of Prime Minister after Zeman, who managed to remove Slouf from his post.
The outline of the political scene shaped by Srba's scandals is unattractive: a secret service that clearly oversteps its jurisdiction; rampant blackmail and corruption at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; together with signs of organized crime making its way into the highest echelons of the state administration. Moreover, the political elite felt it could totally ignore the media, which have been vociferous in highlighting Srba's maneuvers. The marks for Zeman's team are less than satisfactory. But this applies also to the contractual opposition, which kept a compliant silence about the entire affair even though it was fully informed.
It looks now that everyone is finally beginning to see the light. The new Prime Minister, Vladimir Spidla, declared that the affair must be fully clarified in all respects and the culprits must be punished; Jaroslav Tvrdik, Minister of Defence, resolved to investigate everything that the Military Intelligence Service is concealing. The Civic Democrats headed by Vaclav Klaus also called for the entire story of Srba's machinations to be brought into the open. The party is finally beginning to act like a normal opposition, which is most urgently needed in a democracy.
However, these promising
signs could easily be thwarted if those dealing with the whole affair ---
whether the police or politicians --- concentrate exclusively on Karel
Srba. Unless the whole political background of the affair is exposed, including
those who provided protection and created the breeding ground for his actions,
in brief, pointing to concrete politicians, it will not be possible to
eliminate the suspicion that all kinds of mafia are on the loose in the
Czech Republic, connected to the highest political circles and acting with impunity.
• • •
Instead of hearing the usual declarations from his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin about the inalterable strategic course towards the foundation of a Union, Alexander Lukashenka was informed by him of a business plan to divide up Belarus and incorporate its administrative units into the Russian Federation. The Belarusian leader did not like the idea.
During a daylong working
visit to Moscow on August 14, Lukashenka met with the Russian president
for more than two hours and they discussed "all the problems of their mutual
Lukashenka told a press conference at the Kremlin that the two leaders spent about 40 minutes on "concrete economic problems," although they had not originally intended to. Putin told the press conference that they discussed in particular plans for the joint establishment of energy networks to distribute natural gas in Belarus. He added that one of the main topics of discussion was the formation of a single economic space in Belarus and Russia. Both presidents spoke of a "future constitutional act" of the Union State and, as Putin put it, there was "concurrence" on practically all questions of the integration of Russia and Belarus.
On the previous day, in an interview with Belarusian television, the Belarusian ambassador to the Russian Federation, Vladimir Gregoriev, stated that "a certain increase" in gas deliveries to Belarus would be discussed at the meeting of the two leaders. This came just after the Russian Gazprom and Intera companies had threatened to reduce natural gas deliveries to Belarus by a quarter. Therefore, it was obvious that Belarus's energy debt problem would be discussed. It was normal also to expect lobbying of the investors' interests on the Russian side.
It is possible that this was all on the negotiating table, but Putin gracefully shifted attention to the previously abstract problem of the principle behind the construction of a Union State. After pro forma statements to the press in the question and answer part of the press conference, the Russian president suddenly stated that now is the appropriate moment for the annexation of Belarus by Russia.
"I, for example," he said, "think that today it would be completely possible for us to take some specific steps. As they say in a famous film, 'this is the moment.' At this moment, the overwhelming majority in Belarus and Russia want unification. Secondly, within the so-called political elites, there is a definite national consensus on this matter. Both the executive branches of power and the legislative think that this is right. Therefore, we can take specific actions. What kinds of actions? There are various possibilities. First is the most direct and specific. The foundation of a union state in the full meaning of the word. I can imagine that that may take place within a definite timeframe. Let's say that, in May of next year, it would be possible to hold a referendum on final unification. In December 2003, it would be possible to hold elections for a union parliament and, in the spring, let's say March 2004, hold elections for a union head of state. That would be movement toward the foundation of a union state in the full sense of the word."
Providing details about this option for the final solution to the question of Belarusian-Russian integration, Putin said, "Alexander Grigorievich [Lukashenka] and I also spoke about this subject." He then again suggested that the issues be put to a referendum (see Addendum 1). It was clear that he was talking about the entrance of Belarusian constituents into Russia and the creation of unitary governing bodies in accordance with the constitution of the Russian Federation.
Putin explained why, in his opinion, the unification of the two states should proceed within the framework of Russian basic law. "Not because we like the constitution of Belarus any less. . . . But Belarus, unlike Russia, is a unitary state. Russia, and the future joint state as well, can only be federal, just as Russia is federative. So I cannot imagine any other way of doing it," he said.
"This is the first option,"
the Russian president emphasized. "It is clear, specific and understandable."
He then went on to outline a second option, one that seemed not to involve
the annexation of Belarus yet: "If that should for some reason be
difficult to carry out, especially within such a narrow window of time,
there is another path open, about which we also spoke today.
That would be closer to the unification processes of the European Union, with a union parliament that will make decision subject to confirmation on the national level according to internal laws. That provides a 100% guarantee of the interests of both states, guarantees sovereignty, independence and everything connected with it."
The integration magic show and its surprises continued from there. It seems that there were "other rather substantial and weighty suggestions in the politico-economic sphere." Putin suggested that the Russian ruble be introduced in Belarus on January 1, 2004, a year earlier than planned. "We have envisaged the introduction of a single currency between 2005 and 2008; more exactly, the Russian ruble is proposed as the only financial tender after 2008. I suggest that the Russian ruble be introduced not in 2005, but in 2004, beginning on January 1, 2004. That will require changing the legislation of the Russian Federation and making corresponding changes in the legislation of the Republic of Belarus. Proposals have been formulated by the Russian administration and the Central Bank. They are quite complex. They demand responsible decisions. I have given them to Alexander Grigoriev [Lukashenka]. They are not secret. You may apply to my staff or the administration staff to receive copies of them."
This NIJ correspondent did
just that and found out that the legislative changes would be very substantial,
requiring the National Bank of Belarus to become, in effect, a branch of
Central Bank of Russia (see Addendum 2).
As he stood near the Russian leader at the Kremlin press conference, the Belarusian president betrayed no hint of his personal opinion on these issues. Only when he had flown back to Minsk did Lukashenka tell journalists that the annexation option was "unacceptable for Belarus," since "it is not even a matter of incorporating Belarus in the structure of Russia as a whole," but it is proposed to "divide and incorporate." When asked about the models proposed by Putin for the formation of a Union State and which of them he preferred, Lukashenka said, "Frankly, we did not discuss a model. As I said at the press conference, there are three or four approaches to the formation of our future union. But, since the president named three models, as you call them, I am sure that the Russian Federation media are making the most of those models for their side, for whatever reason."
Lukashenka said of the referendum, as formulated by his Russian colleague, that, for Belarus, it would mean "do you agree to divide Belarus into seven parts, incorporate those parts into the Russian Federation and give those parts equal rights with the regions of Russia?" Lukashenka also knows the answer that his fellow countrymen should give. "What will the citizens of Belarus answer?" he asked. "It's easy to guess. Categorical refusal, a categorical no. So why even discuss it? It is unacceptable for Belarus. It is not the incorporation of Belarus into Russia as a single unit. We will never accept it."
Reflection: Joining Russia Not Ruled Out
Russian-Belarusian relations have been increasing the center of attention this year, not because of their progress but because of the scandals surrounding them, which are becoming ever louder. The culmination is near.
Vladimir Putin's suggestion to attach Belarus to Russia was improper, a violation of an intimate discussion between two heads of state that he told journalists about. He mentioned it as though it were just a matter of course that he discussed the possible "hand over" of the country under his wardship and that the timetable has already been set but he still isn't sure of the best way to do it.
His partner in this episode was present and said that no one will come between him and the raconteur but, after traveling 700 kilometers to Minsk, he distanced himself from these illegal plans. But it is odd how Lukashenka explained the unacceptability of Putin's plan. "It is not the incorporation of Belarus into Russia as a single unit, but its division and incorporation with rights then." Does that mean that the question of giving Belarus up in parts is open for discussion, but wholesale is not?
Maybe he only misspoke, but Lukashenka did not dispute that option with Putin, only saying that he had not agreed to it. That would indicate that we may dare to suggest that some deal is being made.
Putin's annexation scenario is too well thought out to be simply a public relations maneuver. It was proposed to hold a referendum in May 2003 on the establishment of a unified state with a unified administration within the framework of the Russian constitution, to hold elections for the unified parliament in December 2003 in tandem with elections for the Russian Duma, and to hold elections for the president of the unified state in March 2004 at the same time as the election of the president of the Russian Federation. During presidential campaigning, the Russian ruble would be introduced into Belarus. It's all very logical, but it leaves no room for Lukashenka.
When making a deal in the bazaar, the seller raises the price and the buyer lowers it. This finally leads to something in the middle. What is being haggled over here? Putin has suggested the dissolution of Belarus into the Russian Federation even down to an administrative level. Alternatively, he has suggested a confederation of the European Union type. Lukashenka is demanding equal rights for the constituents of the Union State, a common currency with two emission centers, and supranational, which means supra-Russian, administration of the State. This plan does not suit Russians at all.
Something between the plans mentions may unify the two countries, something retaining the autonomous administration within present territories but with delegated authority for supranational organs. Something similar existed between the Soviet Union and the Soviet republics. The Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic had its own ministry of foreign affairs but no army, had its own budget but no control over Union enterprises. Under such a system, the position of president of Belarus would remain, although with much diminished authority. His responsibility would be diminished at the same time. Might this be what the presidents are arguing about?
Grigory Vasilevich, chairman of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus said in an interview on Friday with Interfax that, "The Belarusian state cannot simply disappear, even if a majority of its citizens vote for that."
Speaking about the possibility of holding a referendum on the unification of Belarus and Russia into a single state, Vasilevich noted that if the legal aspects of the question are broached it becomes much more complex. The constitution in force and Belarusian legislation contain many "levels of protection" of state sovereignty.
Vasilevich said that the most obvious of those protections was contained in the Elections Code, which prohibits national referenda on questions that may lead to the violation of the territorial integrity of Belarus. "In this case, we can speak of the state as a whole," he said. In addition, he emphasized that the Belarusian constitution "is the constitution of an independent state, with all its characteristics, a territory, organs of authority, a legal system, and so on." Vasilevich noted that "the source of authority in the people, who have already set their fate ---to live in their own state in friendship and peace with other peoples, most especially Russia."
At the Central Elections Commission, they consider a referendum on unification with Russia "inexpedient," Commission chairman Nikolai Lozovik told the BelPAN agency. Lozovik said that the Russian president's suggestion contradicts the Belarusian constitution's principle of Belarusian state sovereignty. Therefore, he suggested, it will not pass even a preliminary examination of its accordance with the basic law, as required by the Elections Code. Lozovik emphasized that the Central Elections Commission has no right to give a political interpretation of questions put up for referendum and, if all formalities are observed, the Commission, as a lawful organization, will hold a referendum within the three-month time limit imposed by law. "We have an incontrovertible legal basis for it," Lozovik said.
Leanid Kozik, chairman of the Federation of Labor Unions of Belarus and a member of the Belarusian section of the working group for the drafting of the constitutional act of the Union State, said in a television interview:
This moment needs no discussion. It is the road to nowhere. If you want to hang in limbo, with no way forward, or backward, or sideways, you would make such a suggestion. It would be used as an example. "Look! Russian ate up Belarus. Better stay away from it, or it'll eat you too!"Kozik was cautious about the suggestion of a form of unification like that of the European Union:
The thought comes to me that we are being intentionally pushed toward that option. The first point is especially defined, to which they know Belarus will never agree. Then you have to take something else or Russia will say see, full unification isn't good for you, a purely economic path isn't good for you, nothing works for you. It is possible to force all misfortunes on us.
Mikhail Khvostov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, commented to the Interfaks-Zapad agency that:
There is nothing to say about the inclusion of Belarus in the structure of Russia. The Russian leadership has long known Minsk's position. Our president Alexander Lukashenka always speaks about this. The topic was hotly discussed in 1996 and in February 1997 the Belarusian leader said literally 'I will never violate the sovereignty of Belarus.' We all understand that, at this stage, union building is the formation of the Union State on the principles of international law. Two independent subjects of international law operate within the framework of the agreement on a Union State and work on the basis of the conditions set forth in that document. At today's stage, it is only a matter of equal relations between two sovereign states."
When asked what he thought Putin's goal was in announcing an obviously unacceptable option for Belarus, Khvostov said, "Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] began the debate with this issue, placing it ahead of all others. But neither he nor Alexander Grigorievich [Lukashenka] has said which of the models had been selected. By the way, none of the four models suggested for the formation of the Union State has been declared final yet today."
Leonid Sinitsyn, vice president of the public interest group Social Technology, and a presidential candidate in 2001, said:
“A referendum on a specific question brought up for national discussion," he said, "could put an end to the demagoguery and long-time speculation about the Union State. To allow the citizens to express themselves and thereby define the future of two countries would be the best and most proper way to decide the question of integration. Also, holding a referendum on democratic principles, common to the two countries, of glasnost, transparency of process and observation of human rights, could significantly help Belarus rise from the political swamp that it has found itself in and would facilitate an open dialogue between all political powers and the people.
I call on the political parties, public groups and everyone who is concerned by what is going on in Belarus and Russia to support the suggestion of president Putin to appeal to the citizens directly. I suggest cooperating in the holding of a Union State referendum and the establishment of a structure that could help coordinate group efforts.”Nikolai Statkevich, chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Gromada) declared:
Now Belarus is completely isolated-not only from the West, but from the East as well. Russia cannot yet totally turn Belarus down, but now Putin has the full right to punish Belarus with a 'long ruble.' Belarus will be put in harsher economic conditions with less oil coming in. That way, Lukashenka's foreign policy and economic resources will be significantly narrowed, which will significantly decrease his chances to run for another term in office. Therefore, I would advise him to make concessions to Belarusian society and placate it so that he will have a peaceful departure.
As for the integration of Belarus into Russia as seven constituents, that's unrealistic. There is a consensus among the elites that sovereignty must be preserved. I think that Putin made that suggestion for propagandistic purposes-the time has arrived to stop reconstructing structures that outlived their usefulness long ago. Lukashenka also rejected that option.
Aware that he has no chance of heading the Union State, Lukashenka has been forced to become a defender of sovereignty. He can count on the support of the national elites, but to get it, he must give society a signal of his readiness to take up a nationalist ideology. The best step might be to issue a presidential decree giving the Pagonya coat-of-arms and the white, red and white flag [which were the state symbols of Belarus until 1995, when they were replaced by updates symbols of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic] the status of national symbols-not state but national.
There is no sense in integrating with Russia on the European Union model when the European Union is so close. Better to think with our strategic partners, Russia and Ukraine, about how join the European Union.
The moment of truth has come. Supporters of the Union State see Lukashenka as someone dishonest who is exploiting the idea for his own purposes. I think he will lose 20% of the voter because of that.Anatoly Lebedko, chairman of the United Civil Party, stated:
There has been a battle for the crown of collector of lands in the post-Soviet realm. Lukashenka has lost two rounds. The first one was in St. Petersburg. To a certain degree, he created the problem himself when he spent ten hours convincing Putin to accept integration.
Lukashenka's mistake was that he didn't expect to hear a public refusal of integration. But Putin not only said no to Lukashenka's integration suggestion publicly, he answered with Belarus's attachment to Russia in seven districts. And then Lukashenka was not offered even the role that Shaimiev [president of Tatarstan] got, nor Belarus the status Tatarstan got. The Russian president made it very clear that Lukashenka's political star will set in 2004 when, according to Putin's plan, there will be elections for the president of the Union State.
We can say that the foreign trade and political activities of the eight years of Lukashenka's rule have gone into the toilet. The further development of relations will become clear in the next week or two and Russian TV channels ORT and RTR will be the indicators of it. They are to some degree Putin's press club. If they push Putin's suggestion, that will be a sign that there is a real threat to the sovereignty of Belarus. The Kremlin has forced Lukashenka into a corner, and left him no room to maneuver.Mikhail Marinich, president of the international public interest group Business Initiative, and a candidate for president in 2001 said this:
All the time Lukashenka was saying that Belarus is ready to go as far with integration as the Russian leadership is. Putin got everything in places when he suggested that Belarus join the Russian Federation as seven administrative units. Not only that, Putin guaranteed Belarusians their rights, something that Lukashenka has been unable to do all this time.
Putin does not see Lukashenka as a leader worthy of his own sovereign state. Belarusian-Russian relations must be maintained on an economic level and a Customs Union implemented to demonstrate to people in both countries that there benefits to economic cooperation. Only economic benefit can show that the integration process between Russia and Belarus will have an impact.
There will be no ill effects from the present course of bilateral relations. They have just been grounded. I think that there will be a retreat from populist slogans in favor of more realistic economic policy. Simply for bilateral relations, those years are lost. They could have been more fruitful.
Wording of Vladimir Putin's Proposed Referendum "On Final Unification":
Do you agree that Russia and Belarus should unite into a single state on the following principles:
Guaranteeing equal rights and freedoms for the Russian and Belarusian
Equality for the constituents of Belarus and the Russian Federation;
The foundation of common bodies of authority under the Constitution of the Russian Federation?
Wording of the Referendum of March 17, 1991 on Continuation of the Soviet Union:
Do you consider it necessary to preserve the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal and sovereign republics, in which the human rights and freedoms will be guaranteed in full measure to every nationality?
The Proposition of the Administration and Central Bank of the Russian Federation
Belarusian rubles "will be exchanged for Russian rubles for predetermined periods of time at a fixed rate of exchange." That rate "will correspond to the market rate."
In order to carry out the exchange, the Central Bank of Russia will present the National Bank of Belarus a quantity of Russian rubles "in the form of interest-free loans for an unlimited term" that will have to be returned only in the case that Belarus once again issues a national currency. In the long term, the National Bank will obtain currency in Russian rubles from the Central Bank owing to a corresponding account at the Central Bank
In addition, the National Bank will remain the central bank of Belarus and will preserve its status as a corporate body.
At the same time, the Banking Code of Belarus will have to be amended to limit the operations of the National Bank, in particular, to "prohibit the National Bank from providing credit to the administration of Belarus" or other governmental bodies.
Furthermore, all basic operations, especially those with securities and foreign currencies, should be performed by the National Bank "with the permission of the Central Bank of Russia in quantities and conditions set by the Bank of Russia."
Under the proposal, the National Bank also must present its "records to the Bank of Russia" at intervals and in quantities set by the Bank of Russia.
It is also proposed to set
up a National Banking Council and place one Belarusian representative on
the board of directors of the Bank of Russia for "direct participation
in financial and crediting policy."
• • •
Slovak parliamentary elections in mid-September will be much more interesting than expected. The reason is very simple ---the Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) of Vladimir Meciar is growing weaker and weaker.
HZDS support has plummeted from stable 30 to 18 percent in opinion polls and this may not be the end of his party's decline. The drop in Meciar's popularity began at the end of July, when Ivan Gasparovic, a highly popular HZDS politician was not placed on the slate of the HZDS candidates for the elections. Gasparovic's revenge was very quick --- in 3 days he created his own party, the HZD, or Movement for Democracy. Support for the new party is around 10 per cent, as many of Meciar's former supporters have turned to Gasparovic and his new party. The fight between the two strong men is getting very bitter, with each exposing sleaze on the other in the media.
After the visit of American senator John McCain to Slovakia last week, during which he repeatedly criticized the HZDS, and following president Rudolf Schuster's declaration not to let Meciar create a government after the elections, it is likely that more politicians will leave HZDS and go to Gasparovic's HZD. The question is --- who will win the support of HZD? The 10 percent of the vote this new party receives can be crucial.
The dropping popularity of HZDS increases the possibility that a governmental coalition can be formed without it. The most probable coalition is HZD (10 percent), SMER (Direction), led by the self-made man Robert Fico (15 percent), ANO (Alliance of New Citizen) led by the owner of TV Channel Markiza, Pavol Rusko (10 percent), and the SDKU of Prime Minister Miklas Dzurinda (10 percent). Such a coalition may be supported by the SMK (Hungarian Coalition), now showing 12 percent support, but probably will not include KDH (Christian Democratic Movement), currently at 6 percent in the polls.
The support of KDH is not
sure because this movement is getting much more conservative and signaled
more understanding for the ideas of HZDS than for those of liberal parties.
Still, it is possible that a coalition of HZD and SMER may be supported
by HZDS and KDH. Some political analysts believe that the fight of Gasparovic
and Meciar is just a theatre before the elections and that afterwards they
will cooperate. This possibility would be stronger in the event that Gasparovic's
HZD would place stronger than Robert Fico's SMER and thus hold enough power
to create the new government. If this is the case, then Meciar has once
again shown his political genius. Certainly, the creation of HZD has made
the Slovak elections much more interesting than was expected.