Nervous Slovaks watch Czech coalition talks two weeks before early elections

The post-election talks here are being followed with some interest across the border in Slovakia, which holds early elections in just under two weeks' time. Czechs and Slovaks spent eighty years together as part of a common state, and Czech politics is still keenly observed in Slovakia, though that's not the case, it seems, the other way round. So what lessons will be drawn in Bratislava from the political stalemate in Prague? Milan Nic is from the Slovak-based NGO, the Pontis Foundation.

"It was a shock and also a little bit of nervousness before our elections on June 17th. Although the likelihood that it will end up in a similar stalemate is not very high, still people have been made more aware that elections sometimes don't solve situations and don't provide the winners with a clear mandate."

So the result in the Czech Republic could have some impact on next week's vote in Slovakia.

"There will not be a direct impact. It will have some impact though on the politicians themselves, on the leaders of the political parties. It will very important to see what will be the eventual result of the political manoeuvring, whether there will be a need to repeat the elections in the Czech Republic. It's like a testing ground for various solutions. For instance, we also have a problem with the number of mandates. In the Slovak Parliament we have 150 seats, and theoretically there is a possibility that the two blocs could be split evenly 75-75."

The Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda has taken the unusual step of distributing campaign leaflets in Czech newspapers, hoping to appeal to the 200,000 or so Slovaks living in the Czech Republic. Do you think that will pay off?

"I really don't know. It's not that difficult to get in the car and drive to Slovakia on Saturday and vote. For the first time we will have elections on just one day, and really every 1,000 votes will count. According to the opinion polls the main blocs in Slovakia are evenly split, more or less. So Mr Dzurinda knows that he has to do as much as he can to attract people to vote for him."

Any coalition government that emerges from the elections in the Czech Republic looks like being a weak one, unable to push through key reforms. A similar situation could arise in Slovakia. We've had similar instability in Poland. There's something of a Central European pattern emerging here isn't there?

"Let's wait two more weeks. The real worry here in Slovakia is that the winning coalition from this election will be led by [left-wing populist Robert] Fico and [former authoritarian prime minister Vladimir] Meciar. And they together combined can stop reforms, and change the direction and the gear that Slovakia has been taking in recent years."