Party of Civic Understanding

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Party of Civic Understanding
Strana občianskeho porozumenia
Founded 1998
Dissolved 1 March 2003[1]
Ideology Social liberalism[2]
Political position Centre-left[3]
Politics of Slovakia
Political parties
Elections

The Party of Civic Understanding (Slovak: Strana občianskeho porozumenia, SOP) was a centre-left political party in Slovakia between 1998 and 2003. Between 1998 and 2002 the party was part of the coalition government led by Mikuláš Dzurinda, with the founder of the party, Rudolf Schuster, being elected President of Slovakia in 1999.

In government the party lost support and after the 2002 election had no seats in parliament. The party dissolved on the 1 March 2003 and recommended its members join Direction – Social Democracy (SMER).

Foundation and 1998 election[edit]

Rudolf Schuster, founder and first leader of the Party of Civic Understanding

The Party of Civic Understanding was founded in April 1998 by the Mayor of Košice, Rudolf Schuster.[2] Members of the new party included the former Foreign Minister Pavol Hamžík,[2] among other prominent Slovak figures.[4] The new party was aided by favourable publicity from the Markíza television station.[5]

The Party of Civic Understanding aimed for left leaning voters from eastern Slovakia and disillusioned supporters of the governing People's Party – Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS).[6] The party called for pensioners and students to get a better standard of living, but did not call for privatisations to be re-done without conditions, thereby getting some support from businessmen.[4] It was also a strong supporter of membership of the European Union and NATO.[4]

The party's aim initially was to reduce the polarisation of Slovak politics,[7] by promoting reconciliation between the government of Vladimír Mečiar and the opposition.[8] However as the European Union was completely opposed to the HZDS of Vladimír Mečiar, the Party of Civic Understanding refused to consider co-operating with the HZDS in government.[8] Instead the Party of Civic Understanding joined with the other opposition parties in discussion of the upcoming election campaign and a possible coalition after the election.[6]

Two polls in June and July 1998 showed the Party of Civic Understanding in third place with either 14.2% or 18.4% of the vote, with the party leader Rudolph Schuster being the most popular figure in the country.[9] However at the September 1998 parliamentary election the Party of Civic Understanding won only 8% of the vote and gained 13 seats in parliament,[2] the least number of any of the parties which won seats at the election.[10] The under performance by the party was put down to attacks by Slovenská televízia, the state television station, and possibly voter dislike of the negative campaign by the party.[10]

Government[edit]

Following the 1998 election, the Party of Civic Understanding joined a coalition government with the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) and the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK),[11] after refusing an approach from the HZDS.[12] The party got 2 ministerial posts in the new government,[13] European Integration and Privatisation[6] and a deputy prime minister. In return for not taking a third ministry, they got agreement that all the government parties would support Rudolf Schuster to become the next president.[14]

The new government had a three-fifths majority in parliament and so was able to amend the constitution to provide for the direct election of the president, instead of the previous election by parliament. As part of the coalition agreement, the leader of the Party of Civic Understanding, Rudolf Schuster, was the candidate of the coalition government for president at the 1999 election.[2] Schuster led the first round with 47.4% of the vote and was elected president at the run-off, defeating the former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar by 57.2% to 42.8%.[2]

Following the presidential election, Pavol Hamžík was elected the new leader of the party in June 1999.[15] However the party lost support in government and after the formation of Direction – Social Democracy in November 1999, the Party of Civic Understanding was at less than 5% in the polls.[16] By 2002 the founder of Markíza, Pavol Rusko, no longer supported the Party of Civic Understanding and instead created his own party, Alliance of the New Citizen.[5]

2002 election and merger[edit]

At the September 2002 election the Party of Civic Understanding competed on a joint list with the Party of the Democratic Left, but with only 19 places on the candidate list, compared to 108 for the Party of the Democratic Left.[17] Before signing the agreement the Party of Civic Understanding was only getting 1% in an April 2002 opinion poll.[18] However even combined they only won 1.36% at the election and thus got no seats in parliament.[19]

On the 1 March 2003 delegates at an extraordinary congress of the Party of Civic Understanding voted for the party to dissolve.[1] They called on all 5,000 members to join Direction – Social Democracy, while the leader of the Party of Civic Understanding, Pavol Hamžík, signed an agreement on cooperation with the leader of Direction – Social Democracy Robert Fico.[1]

Leaders[edit]

Leader Period
Rudolf Schuster 1998 – 1999
Pavol Hamžík 1999 – 2003

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Slovak party ends activity, its members joining bigger party". Radio Slovakia (BBC Monitoring (NewsBank)). 1 March 2003. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Day, Alan J; East, Roger; Thomas, Richard (2002). A Political and Economic Dictionary of Eastern Europe. London: Europa Publications. p. 433. 
  3. ^ Jacques Rupnik; Jan Zielonka (8 November 2003). The Road to the European Union. Manchester University Press. pp. 52–. ISBN 978-0-7190-6597-2. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Bugajski, Janusz (2002). Political Parties of Eastern Europe: A Guide to Politics in the Post-Communist Era. M.E. Sharpe. p. 304. ISBN 1563246767. 
  5. ^ a b Henderson, Karen (December 2002). Europe and the Slovak parliamentary election of September 2002. p. 3. 
  6. ^ a b c Blondel, Jean (2001). Cabinets in Eastern Europe. New York: Palgrave. p. 76. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  7. ^ Siaroff, Alan (2000). Comparative European Party Systems. New York: Garland. p. 406. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Vachudova, Milada Anna (2005). Europe Undivided: Democracy, Leverage, and Integration after Communism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 170. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "Polls divided on vote". The Slovak Spectator. 13 August 1998. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Bozóki, András; Ishiyama, John T (2002). The Communist Successor Parties of Central and Eastern Europe. M.E. Sharpe. p. 134. ISBN 076560986X. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  11. ^ Jeffries, Ian (2002). Eastern Europe at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century: A Guide to the Economies in Transition. London: Routledge. p. 60. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  12. ^ "Slovak opposition works on forming new government". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). 28 September 1998. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  13. ^ A Political Chronology of Europe. London: Europa. 2001. p. 289. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  14. ^ "Slovak government formed after weeks of negotiations". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). 28 October 1998. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  15. ^ Lewis, Paul G (2000). Political Parties in Post-Communist Eastern Europe. Routledge. p. 167. ISBN 0415201829. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  16. ^ Bozóki, András; Ishiyama, John T (2002). The Communist Successor Parties of Central and Eastern Europe. M.E. Sharpe. p. 138. ISBN 076560986X. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  17. ^ "Slovak left-wing party approves list of candidates for general election". News Agency of the Slovak Republic (BBC Monitoring (NewsBank)). 17 July 2002. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  18. ^ "Slovak centre-left and left-wing parties to campaign jointly before election". News Agency of the Slovak Republic (BBC Monitoring (NewsBank)). 15 May 2002. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  19. ^ "Former parliamentary party merges with Smer". Associated Press (HighBeam Research). 2 March 2003. Retrieved 23 January 2013.