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IVO president´s commentary about Ivan Gašparovič’s victory in presidential elections

Gašparovič remains Slovakia’s president
The Slovak Spectator, No. 13, 2009 (shortened)
By Beata Balogová

INCUMBENT president Ivan Gašparovič, the candidate backed by ruling parties Smer and the Slovak National Party (SNS) will remain Slovakia’s president for another five years.Gašparovič won the second round of the presidential election after collecting 55.53 percent of the votes. His challenger Iveta Radičová, the joint candidate of the parliamentary opposition parties, won 44.46 percent of the votes on a 51.67 percent turnout, according to the official results announced by the Central Election Commission on April 5.

Speaking just a couple of days before the second round, observers suggested that a re-elected Ivan Gašparovič would be unlikely to change the way he has ruled over the past five years. Iveta Radičová was viewed as the candidate most likely to change the way the role of president has been executed to date.

The president of the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) think tank, Grigorij Mesežnikov, said that during the run-up to the second round of the election it was the SNS who did the campaigning with the silent agreement of Smer, using the argument that power needs to be concentrated in the hands of one political grouping in order for social problems to be solved more easily.

“It is a misleading argument, which contradicts the spirit of democracy,” Mesežnikov said. And Mesežnikov did not think that the way Gašparovič would rule during his second term would change.

“He always acts as a loyal supporter of the forces which nominated him to power,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator.

According to Mesežnikov, Gašparovič inclined to Smer from the very beginning and when the parties made it to government, he became a de facto, if informal, member of the ruling coalition.

“Robert Fico knows very well why he wants him [Gašparovič] to be the president,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator. “There are no programmes or any content behind his choice, but purely the mechanics of power. Fico needs the security of a loyal partner in this position and, most importantly, so that after the 2010 elections Gašparovič will charge him with forming the new cabinet. This is the name of the game, nothing else.”

Mesežnikov said that Radičová could have changed the atmosphere in society, which is now witnessing “inconsiderate pragmatism, a technocratic approach and cronyism, and quite brutal methods of political power”.

 

“This is first of all the result of the activities of the ruling coalition,” said Mesežnikov. Of course the president does not have the authority to intervene in the execution of power but by virtue of the fact that he or she can highlight these phenomena, criticise them, appeal to the public and present alternatives, the president can change the atmosphere in society, Mesežnikov said.

He suggested that Radičová as president could, for example, prevent the worst political expressions and “perhaps this is why the SNS has been using the Hungarian card in such a primitive and hysterical way. Because they themselves know that today they have a president who accepts everything from the billboard tender up to the raging anti-Hungarian campaign,” Mesežnikov said.

According to Mesežnikov, Gašparovič is a person who perhaps internally disagrees with certain things, but has openly never criticised the government: on the contrary he has always supported it and praised its results.

As for Radičová, Mesežnikov does not think that she would have intentionally provoked a confrontation: “she is a completely different person; firm in principles but cooperative. This is what she indicated in the campaign, that she would be able to cooperate, something which Smer intentionally misinterpreted as her yielding.”

This demonstrated her sense of responsibility, because the constitution assumes the cooperation of all constitutional representatives, said Mesežnikov.

“I think that her term would be characterised by a clear attitude towards the solution of problems and careful fulfillment of duties and cooperation with other constitutional representatives,” said Mesežnikov.

Gašparovič won the first round with 46.70 percent of the votes. Radičová trailed him by a smaller-than-expected 8.65-percent margin, on 38.05 percent. Voter turnout in the first round was 43.63 percent.

The other five first-round candidates came in some way behind the leading two: František Mikloško, backed by the Conservative Democrats of Slovakia (KDS), collected 5.41 percent of the votes cast; Zuzana Martináková, running as the candidate of the non-parliamentary liberal Free Forum (SF), received 5.12 percent; Milan Melník, supported by the third party in the governing coalition, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), followed with 2.45 percent; former Communist Party (KSS) MP Dagmara Bollová, running as an independent candidate, polled 1.13 percent; and Milan Sidor, the official KSS candidate, came in last, with 1.11 percent of the vote.

Michaela Stanková, Jana Liptáková and Zuzana Vilikovská contributed to the report

 



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