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National Politics Has Little Impact on Small-Town Slovakia - 2002-09-22

Preliminary results of Slovakia's parliamentary elections show the ruling center-right parties apparently took enough votes to form a new pro-European Union government. The HZDS party of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar got the largest single vote of about 20 percent. With no outside support, analysts say, he will not be able to form a government. In southern Slovakia, voters have mixed feelings.

With 50 percent unemployment, people in this small Slovak town of Filakovo may be forgiven for feeling neglected by the political establishment.

Communist-era apartment blocks surround the city's 13th century fortress. Both the apartments and the castle are in desperate need of renovation.

The castle guide is 33-year-old ethnic Hungarian Gyula Palkovics. He voted for the ethnic Hungarian SMK party, which, according to first official results, got more than 11 percent of the vote. It is expected to form part of a new center-right coalition to be led by incumbent Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's SDKU party. It received a little more than 15 percent of the vote.

Mr. Palkovics says he is glad his vote counts for Mr. Dzurinda's coalition. The main thing for him was to make sure that former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's supporters do not return to power. Without them, he says, his country can join the European Union and NATO.

"I think this government was better than the Meciar government, from the viewpoint of the European Union. But from the viewpoint of the economy it was not better," said Mr. Palkovics. Mr. Meciar's HZDS party, which has been criticized for its autocratic style before it was voted out of office in 1998, received the biggest percentage of votes. But analysts say it will not be able to form a government, since practically all other parties refuse to consider joining in coalition with Mr. Meciar.

If, as expected, Prime Minister Dzurinda is asked to form a new government, he should be able to do so with the aid of three other conservative parties.