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Last Updated: Monday, 5 April, 2004, 19:40 GMT 20:40 UK
Press shock over Meciar victory
Former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar
Meciar is known for his nationalism and anti-Western stance
Former premier Vladimir Meciar's surprise victory in the first round of the Slovak presidential election has alarmed newspapers in Slovakia and the neighbouring Czech Republic.

The result is seen as a heavy blow to the government after its candidate Eduard Kukan failed to make the second round.

Others consider Mr Meciar's past record and worry the vote could weaken the country's position in the EU and Nato.

"Shock - Meciar back in the game," screams a headline in the Czech daily Pravo.

"The ghosts of the past are coming to life" proclaims a headline in Slovakia's Novy Cas.

"A crushing defeat. Autocrat Meciar will pose a problem," predicts a headline in Bratislava's Pravda.

Bratislava's Narodna Obroda also describes the result as "the most crushing defeat suffered by the ruling coalition since it came to power in 1998" and "a reminder that the era of political victories based on anti-Meciarism is definitely over."

"The result ... is a surprise, a shock and a slap in the face of the current Bratislava government. It is very bad news sending a negative signal abroad," the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes believes.

'Thumbs down'

Several papers voice concerns over the possible ramifications for the country's membership of Nato and EU, recalling that during his premiership in the 1990s, Mr Meciar was known for his nationalism and anti-Western stance.

"A day after the Slovak flag was raised outside Nato headquarters in Brussels, voters decided that Meciar and [Ivan] Gasparovic - the two men whose policies resulted in Slovakia being omitted from the first round of Nato enlargement and caused a nearly two-year delay in accession talks with the EU - will compete for the post of president in a run-off," Pravo writes in disbelief.

"Slovak voters played a game with their politicians," Bratislava's SME writes.

"They resurrected two figures of the past and gave the 'thumbs down' to two current leaders - Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and opposition leader Robert Fico," the daily says.

It suggests that confidence in Mr Meciar mirrors voters' dissatisfaction with the government's policies on EU and Nato.

"Voting for the pair who advanced to the second round run-off, Vladimir Meciar and his former close ally Ivan Gasparovic, was a unique way for Slovakia to say 'thank you' for the country's integration into Nato and the EU, the blocs which shunned Slovakia under Meciar's administration 1994-1998."

Personalities

Two Czech papers focus on the candidates' personalities.

"Vladimir Meciar in a top post is a great danger for Slovakia," is Lidove noviny's verdict.

"Not only because he is an inscrutable, stubborn and moody populist, and not only because under his leadership, Slovakia would not attain a favourable position within the EU," it says.

"However, Ivan Gasparovic is no better alternative to Meciar," it adds.

Mlada Fronta Dnes sees "hard times" ahead for the Slovak government.

"Regardless of whether it is Meciar or Gasparovic, the future president will be a formidable opponent of its reforms," it says.

"Meciar is unacceptable to other countries. If he wins the second round, Slovakia could become a second-rate country. As an alternative, Gasparovic is as bad as Meciar. If elected the country's president, however, he is likely to cause less problems."

Pravda editor Petr Sabata concludes that "he is still a threat for Slovakia, a big threat".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
Ex-PM in Slovakia poll surprise
05 Apr 04  |  Europe
Country profile: Slovakia
01 Apr 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Slovakia
01 Apr 04  |  Country profiles


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