IT DOESN’T take Freud to see the springtime tradition of putting up large wooden poles as a sign of manly power. And Robert Fico’s decision to make the erection of a máj one of his first public appearances after a humiliating loss in the presidential elections also seems somewhat symbolic.

In the last month the prime minister has been invisible, and it’s impossible to say if and when he will return. If he doesn’t recover from the loss, it will have two significant implications on Slovak politics.

Firstly, it will become much more boring. Fico has turned into a máj, around which everybody dances. He sets the tone and the agenda. It was to a great extent his ability to scare voters that helped Andrej Kiska win the election. With Fico gone, what would the rest of the political class do?

The second consequence of his long term absence would be the impotence of Smer. This is not a party of strong individuals who are good at independent decision-making. No, this is a tribe fully dependent on the chief’s micromanagement. The first signs of trouble were starting to show during the debate on VAT rates, with the administration struggling to articulate a clear position.

It may well be that Fico is indeed in great physical pain caused not only by his Achilles tendon rupture (if one symbol wasn’t enough for you), but also a long-term issue with the spine (yes, the spine), and once those are healed, everything will be back to normal. But you have to wonder - does he still have what it takes? Or has he become a máj - an apparent symbol of strength, which has in fact already been cut and its fate is sealed?