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Theatre of the absurdEDITORIAL
21 Jan 2013 Beata Balogová Opinion
PRESIDENT Ivan Gašparovič deserves to be impeached for the way he has handled the issue of the appointment of parliament’s chosen candidate, Jozef Čentéš, to the post of general prosecutor. Even though on January 17 the opposition submitted a proposal signed by 44 deputies from all five opposition parties to have the president impeached and taken to the Constitutional Court, it is highly unlikely that this will be the next turn in the ongoing saga of Slovakia’s struggle to locate its next general prosecutor.
The prospect of the impeachment going down in history as yet another feeble attempt by the opposition to change the script which, at this point only Robert Fico and his bulky ruling Smer could rewrite, is just as depressing as seeing the disjointed opposition trying to fix a problem to which they themselves contributed when they ruled the country and treated their time in power as a game of trial-and-error. The opposition claims that the president wilfully violated the constitution when he refused to appoint Čentéš, overstepping his presidential authority. Their proposal, which is the first attempt in Slovakia’s modern history to impeach a president, will need 90 parliamentary ‘yes’ votes, but is likely only to get the votes of the opposition, unless, if driven by a sudden fit of exhibitionism, one or two opposition deputies decide not to support their own proposal, which given some of the opposition profiles, would not be surprising at all.
Constitutional lawyer Peter Kresák commented for the SITA newswire that the opposition’s proposal is rather a political gesture, which will not have any real impact, adding that opinions on whether the constitution has been violated differ.
Gašparovič, instead of addressing parliamentary deputies at a special session initiated by the opposition, preferred to show up on January 16 on private news television TA3 with no opponent to debate him over the matter.
“The president makes an appearance not because he has to, but rather when he finds out that his address is needed,” Gašparovič said when explaining his attitude to viewers, adding that “… today the opposition is beyond the interest of the public” and it only wanted to use the special session to attract attention. Gašparovič was also quick to comment on a demonstration planned to take place in front of the presidential palace to express disagreement with his proceeding, suggesting that those are mostly young people who read something on the internet without understanding it.
Yet Gašparovič has been swimming in unwanted attention, having become the butt of numerous jokes describing the president’s intellect in rather unflattering ways on social networking sites. His critics might insist that he deserves all of it, but the point, unfortunately, is that the whole of society has become an audience to this absurd saga.
When a voter who must entrust the management of this country to the hands of politicians has to endure an 18-month long theatre of the absurd, then he or she will lose faith in the elected officials’ promise to serve the public. Instead, politicians are exploring new ways to adjust their public function so as to benefit a chosen few.
Unfortunately the story of Čentéš and the way in which some state officials have been handling it all along suggest that they hope that the memory of the masses is short and that, after a couple of rallies and futile trials to name those who did wrong, things will return to normal. They also assume that at least half of the nation is struggling with existential issues and remains rather disconnected from the debates about constitutionality, the powers of the president or Čentéš himself, about whom they know next to nothing except that the ruling power does not want him to run the prosecution service.
Those who remember the whole story of electing the country’s next general prosecutor, including the botched vote and subsequent claims and counter-claims within the former ruling coalition, amid what seemed to be an internal plot to unseat the then prime minister Iveta Radičová, know that this is in no way a story of good guys versus bad guys. The entire process, from its earliest stages, has demonstrated a whole tapestry of ills in Slovak politics, and as such it cannot have a happy ending. But one would hope for society’s sake for the best possible outcome, which ideally would not further corrode the people’s faith in a system where the constitution guides the courts and the politicians, and not the other way around.
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“We need a president who will not be the lesser evil.” Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) leader Richard Sulík, speaking about his party’s nomination of SaS MP Peter Osuský as its candidate for president.