Leaders » Presidents » MICHAL KOVÁČ
Michal Kovac is a former Slovakian politician who assumed office as the country’s first president when the position was newly created by the constitution of Slovakia in 1993 when Slovakia permanently split from Czechoslovakia and became a separate country. The position which had been lying vacant for the initial few weeks of its establishment was filled by Kovac who was elected as the president by the National Council of Slovak Republic. He had been the last Speaker of Czechoslovakia's federal Parliament before the country split peacefully into Czech and Slovak states in January 1993. A former banker who had worked at a number of famous banks before venturing into politics, Kovac brought with him a rich legacy of knowledge and experience relating to financial and economic issues. Prior to his election as the first President of Slovakia, he had served as the Chairman of the Federal Assembly of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. He was one of the founders of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia in the early 1990s and had played a significant role in the process of the preparation of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. He had strained relations with the Prime Minister of Slovakia, Vladimír Mečiar, which only worsened after his becoming the president
After completing his education he embarked on a banking career. Over the next several years he held positions at various banks including the Státní banka československá.
He had a thriving banking career. Hard working, intelligent and determined, he acquired in-depth knowledge about the working of banks and the functioning of the country’s financial system. Over the course of his career he also traveled to and worked at places like London and Cuba in the 1960s.
The Velvet Revolution which happened in 1989 was marked by a period of political upheaval and transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia. Several non-violent protests and demonstrations were held by students and other dissidents against the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
During the Velvet Revolution, Kovac became the Finance Minister of the Slovak (Socialist) Republic, a position he served in from December 1989 to May 1991.
During the early 1991 he co-founded the ‘Movement for a Democratic Slovakia’ along with other like-minded individuals. He also served as the vice-chairman of the movement which was led by his friend Vladimir Meciar.
In the early 1990s he was also elected as a deputy to the Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia. The assembly was the federal parliament of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovakia's highest legislative institution.
He was elected to serve as the Chairman of the Federal Assembly after the 1992 election and held this post from 25 June 1992 to 31 December 1992.
He along with Meciar played a significant role in the preparation for the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. The erstwhile federal state of Czechoslovakia was split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993. This incident became famous by the name of ‘Velvet Divorce’.
Kovac was a member of the People's Party – Movement for a Democratic Slovakia which Vladimir Meciar had founded in 1991. After the Velvet Divorce, Meciar became the Prime Minister and Kovac was elected as the president by the National Council of Slovakia in February 1993 because of his association with the party.
He assumed office as the first President of Slovakia on 2 March, 1993. However after he became the president, tensions arose between him and his former ally, Meciar, and their relationship became increasingly strained.
Eventually he became a big critic of the Meciar administration and gave a highly critical presidential address to the parliament in March 1994. He played a key role in the deposition of the Meciar government.
The relations between the former allies Kovac and Meciar worsened with time and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia cancelled Kováč's (formal) membership in the party in 1995.
After several controversial confrontations with Meciar, Kovac’s term as a president ended on 2 March, 1998. He lost the first direct Slovak presidential election in 1999, and after that he maintained a low-profile, only making sporadic appearances at some symbolic events.
He played a leading role in the peaceful separation of Czechoslovakia into Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Michal Kovac was born on 5 August 1930 in Ľubiša, Czechoslovakia.
After completing his high school education he enrolled at the University of Economics in Bratislava. As a student he developed a keen interest in banking systems and issues related to finance.
He was also interested in politics from a young age and made important analysis on the Socialist system, based on Soviet documentation. As a young man he developed connections with the country's most important Communist political leaders and soon became well acquainted with the political functioning of the nation.
He is married to Emília Kováčová and has two children with her—Michael and Juraj. His son, who had been accused of financial crimes by German authorities was allegedly kidnapped and taken to Austria. Kovac accused the government and Meciar to have staged the kidnapping.