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Cablegate: Presidents Party to Support Pm's Smer-Sd in Upcoming

VZCZCXRO4481
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHSL #0086 0571615
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261615Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BRATISLAVA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0449
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHSL/AMEMBASSY BRATISLAVA 0517

UNCLAS BRATISLAVA 000086

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/CE J. MOORE AND M. LIBBY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV LO
SUBJECT: PRESIDENTS PARTY TO SUPPORT PM'S SMER-SD IN UPCOMING
ELECTIONS

1. (SBU) Summary. The Movement for Democracy (known by its
Slovak acronym "HZD") - a party founded by current Slovak
President Ivan Gasparovic in 2002 after an acrimonious split
with HZDS, the party led by his longtime political partner and
autocratic former PM Vladimir Meciar - announced its withdrawal
from the June 12 general elections in favor of Smer-SD, the
strongest party in the current ruling coalition and the clear
front runner in all polls. The move has been widely predicted
since Gasparovic was re-elected to a second term with strong
support from Smer-SD in Spring 2009. End summary.

2. (U) At the HZD party congress on February 20, attended by
Prime Minister Robert Fico, and President Gasparovic - who
remained Honorary Chairperson despite the traditionally
non-partisan function of his office, delegates voted unanimously
to cooperate with Smer-SD in putting together a list of
candidates for the June Parliamentary elections. HZD's titular
Chairman, Jozef Grapa, told media he is confident Smer-SD's list
will include some HZD members. Grapa added that the HZD
presidium will now make arrangements to amalgamate HZD into
Smer-SD.

3. (U) Gasparovic founded HZD in 2002, after he was omitted from
the HZDS candidate list for parliamentary elections in 2002.
(Gasparovic had previously been considered Vladimir Meciar's
right hand, serving as Speaker of Parliament from 1994-1998,
during the period that led former Secretary Albright to deride
Slovakia as "the black hole of Europe.") In 2002 HZD failed to
get the five percent of valid votes cast necessary to enter
Parliament, although they exceeded the three percent required
for state funding. In 2002 HZD was widely credited with making a
second Dzurinda government possible by siphoning votes from HZDS.

4. (SBU) In 2004, after over-confident center-right voters
failed to turn out for the first round of the Presidential
election, Gasparovic shocked the political establishment by
taking second place to Meciar. In a second round of voting, and
with grudging support from many who found him to be the lesser
of two evils, Gasparovic defeated Meciar with nearly 60 percent
of the vote. It was the first, last and only electoral success
for HZD.

5. (U) During the 2009 presidential campaign Gasparovic ran as
an independent with support from HZD, Smer-SD and the Slovak
National Party (SNS). Nonetheless, a film of Gasparovic speaking
to a group of Smer functionaries became public in which he said,
"We're here alone, so I can say, that in this position and at
this time I'm practically like a member [of Smer-SD], because my
failure will be the failure of Smer and my success will be the
success of Smer and, of course, the whole coalition."

6. (U) Speaking at the HZD congress, PM Fico said Smer-SD will
welcome all HZD members who choose to enter his party. HZD has
2,200 registered members.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: The amalgamation of HZD - and effectively of
the Slovak President - with Fico's Smer is the latest act in a
12-year old drama that began when a broad coalition of
"democratic forces" united to oust the autocratic Prime Minister
Meciar after the 1998 elections. Although Meciar's party gained
the largest percentage of valid votes cast in 1998, his
opponents - with support from Western countries that publicly
and privately said Slovakia would never join the EU or NATO
while Meciar was in charge - were able to create a coalition
that excluded him. At that moment many of Meciar's financial
supporters, including businesspeople who, it is said, were
"given permission to become rich" under the rule of Meciar (and
Gasparovic), began looking for a new candidate and party to
back. Many of them chose a successful young lawyer from
Topolcany, Robert Fico, who failed to get a ministerial position
in the new government despite being the star of the reformed
Communist party (the Party of the Democratic Left, known in
Slovak as "SDL"). With their backing, Fico started Smer in 1999,
which became Smer-SD after its merger with SDL in 2005. END
COMMENT.

EDDINS

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