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Slovaks Gather for Anti-Corruption Rally Five Weeks Before Vote

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Slovaks gathered for the biggest anti-corruption rally since the fall of communism in the east European country, demanding investigation of alleged bribery involving high-level politicians five weeks before elections.

About 10,000 people gathered on a central square in freezing temperatures today in Bratislava, the capital, the Sme newspaper reported. Some 18,000 people registered to attend the event on Facebook Inc’s website. Similar protests were to be held in other cities across the country.

“The protests represent the biggest expression of public discontent in many years,” said Grigorij Meseznikov, the head of the Public Affairs Institute in Bratislava.

The protest was triggered by a suspected secret-service file, which was leaked on the Internet in December. The document, code-named Gorilla, suggested links between politicians and businessmen, including agreements on contracts of state-controlled companies during the 2002-2006 rule of former Premier and current Foreign Minister Mikulas Dzurinda.

Allegations that the SDKU party would take funds from the sales of state property “are absurd,” Dzurinda said in an interview with the newspaper Sme on Jan. 19.

The scandal may influence the outcome of March 10 elections, Meseznikov said. Support for Dzurinda’s SDKU party fell to 8.2 percent in a Jan. 20-27 survey conducted by the private company Focus, from 11.3 percent in November. Smer, the main opposition party led by former premier Robert Fico, would win with 41.4 percent, according to the poll carried out on a sample of 1,141 people. No margin of error was given.

A special police team is investigating allegations in the document, Interior Minister Daniel Lipsic has said. He confirmed that the secret service was carrying out an operation to examine ties between politicians and local businessmen, while declining to comment on the authenticity of the leaked file.

To contact the reporter on this story: Radoslav Tomek in Bratislava at rtomek@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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