BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Michal Kovac, who served as the first president of Slovakia after it became an independent state in 1993, has died. He was 86.
Kovac died Wednesday in a Bratislava hospital where he had been treated since Friday for heart failure, Interior Ministry spokesman Ivan Netik said. Kovac was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said in a statement he had “excellent personal and professional relations” with Kovac and offered condolences to his family.
Kovac’s term in office was marked by clashes with Vladimir Meciar, an authoritarian prime minister who led Slovakia into international isolation.
President Andrej Kiska said in a statement that Kovac held the post in a complicated time “when a ruthless and literally rough fight was going on over the inner character and the future of Slovakia on the map of Europe and the world.”
When Slovakia gained independence in 1993 after the split of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Kovac was elected president and held the mostly ceremonial position until 1998.
He initially sought another term, but withdrew from the race and never again was involved in politics.
Born August 5, 1930 in the village of Lubisa, Kovac graduated from the University of Economics and worked in banking sector before getting into politics after the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution.
He served as Czechoslovakia’s finance minister in 1990-91 and was also speaker of Czechoslovakia’s Parliament in 1992.