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Theatrics trumping politicsEDITORIAL
30 Jun 2014 Beata Balogová Opinion
IGOR Matovič, suffering from an acute case of political exhibitionism, has accused a rising right-leaning political star with an inflated ego of murky financing of his presidential campaign, which brought Radoslav Procházka enough popularity to beat his former mother party in recent polls. The political melodrama, which already involves lie detector testing, secret recordings and claims of political assassination, would be entertaining if it didn’t actually reflect the misery of centre-to-right-wing parties in Slovakia.
Leader of the opposition party Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) Matovič claimed that Procházka, leader of the non-parliamentary Sieť, attempted to purchase campaign ads from Matovič’s family-owned company, Regionpress, off the books. Matovič, known for entertaining the media by suggesting that he had been offered millions of euros to destabilise the then-fragile coalition of centre-right forces, only to toss aside his claims later, saying it was a joke, called on Procházka to take a lie detector test to prove the contrary. He also noted that he himself had undergone such testing.
Procházka, who officially declared his campaign costs at €250,000, which political transparency watchdogs called improbable unless he received big discounts from the campaigning services, denied Matovič’s claims. Then he spiced it all up and said he would undergo polygraph testing during a live television show only to change course a few days later after being criticised by the media for joining Matovič’s circus and saying that he would not.
Leaders, either those losing steam, or those aspiring to lead a more unified right-wing against Robert Fico and his Smer party, have been self-involved in petty fights for much of the past decade. Even those with a short memory can recall when political greenhorns that claimed the mantle of a new political culture actually brought down the best government this country has ever had a few years ago.
Some of this self-declared new generation of politicians fails to understand that people can easily turn on their commercial television if they hunger for soap operas rich in theatrics. Perhaps such charades might click with immature voters who follow politics only to get a good laugh, but Procházka should know better.
Such foolishness plays with the trust of people who saw in him some hope for political decency, as his Sieť party looks to be gaining momentum – they had 15.8 percent in the Focus poll from June, second only to the ruling Smer.
Though Procházka might try to talk about “the real issues”, unless he clears the air around his party financing, he can hardly hope to improve his prospects. Furthermore, there is no way to come out unscathed from an encounter with a politician like Matovič. The fact that he even got involved in the first place does not bode well for his political instincts.
As of June 26, Procházka said that he is done with Matovič, who now claims to have a secret recording of Procházka’s voice. “Though I am a doctor, I am not a psychiatrist”, Procházka said, he has a sneaking suspicions that all Matovič wants is attention. He also said, according to the the SITA newswire, that they led the presidential campaign like a start-up company and did not have a professional background, and, thus, could have made some mistakes.
The problem though is that this statement comes a little too late. Made in a timely manner with all the due explanation, perhaps the whole extravaganza with Matovič could have been avoided.
In times when the public trust in politics is in decay and most of those more sophisticated voters are simply fed-up with politicians who are out to quench their thirst for power and public attention.
Perhaps politicians feel locked in a vicious circle: if they do not get the attention, they will not get elected. Considering the public’s apathy, it is difficult to get attention with hard work only.
The lesson seems to be that there is no quick fix in terms of genuinely getting the electorate’s attention. It involves a lot of hard work to stick in people’s long-term memory, not to mention actual systematic political work and reasonable behaviour with a minimal display of egomania.
There is a part of the electorate that appreciates no other way of doing politics. Procházka would do well to focus on them to grow his party.
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