BRATISLAVA (REUTER) - Slovakia's opposition said on Monday it had collected almost one-third of the signatures needed to force a referendum on the direct election of the President. The referendum is aimed at preventing Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar from assuming presidential powers before the election of a new president in March 1998, and some six months before the next general elections are to be held. "According to latest reports, we have already more than 100,000 signatures since we started two weeks ago," Ivan Simko, vice-chairman of the Christian-Democratic Movement (KDH) who heads the petition committee, told Reuters. "We could have the necessary number of signatures (350,000) within two months," he added. The committee is comprised of many Slovak opposition parties. If the petition collects the required amount of signatures, the president must call a referendum within 90 days. The ruling coalition, headed by Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), and the opposition cannot agree on a common presidential candidate nor garner the three-fifths majority necessary in the 150-seat house to push through their own choice. If a stalemate occurs, Meciar, an avowed political foe of Kovac, would assume presidential powers. He has rejected the referendum and called for citizens to boycott it. At least 50 percent of the electorate must vote in a referendum to make it valid, and a simple majority voters would be needed approve a change to the constitution. The petition and referendum is also opposed by the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), the reformed communists. "This referendum could be a precedent for similar procedures to... concentrate power in hands of a single person," SDL deputy chairperson Brigita Schmoegnerova said, referring to Meciar. Simko conceded that a referendum on direct presidential elections could open a Pandora's box, allowing Meciar to conduct other referenda to change the constitution. "This is a possibility," he said. "But we should trust our citizens not to vote for foolish or dangerous things." Last year Kovac said he would not stand for re-election in 1998, but has now indicated he might change his mind.