EDITORIAL

Harabin's parallel universe

ŠTEFAN Harabin has not mastered the art of departure, thus joining the extensive family of Slovak public figures who chose to interpret rejection as endorsement, defeat as victory and a lack of public confidence as confirmation that they are the right person in the right place at the right time. Harabin’s many critics called May 19, the day when he failed in his bid for re-election as the head of the Supreme Court and the Judicial Council, good news for the country - the beginning of a long-awaited change, a day of hope and a victory for the people.

ŠTEFAN Harabin has not mastered the art of departure, thus joining the extensive family of Slovak public figures who chose to interpret rejection as endorsement, defeat as victory and a lack of public confidence as confirmation that they are the right person in the right place at the right time. Harabin’s many critics called May 19, the day when he failed in his bid for re-election as the head of the Supreme Court and the Judicial Council, good news for the country - the beginning of a long-awaited change, a day of hope and a victory for the people.

Yet, those who heard Harabin speaking to the media after the vote in eastern Slovakia’s Sobrance, where he summoned the election in an apparent attempt to minimise the presence of Bratislava-based activists and media, might have thought that the vote took place in a parallel universe.

“I won because I had the highest number of votes,” responded Harabin with an awkward laugh to the question of whether he is able to accept defeat, after failing to collect at least 10 of the 16 votes of the Judicial Council members in the first and second round of the election.

Harabin offered a peek into his own parallel universe, with its parallel judiciary, when explaining to the media why he is the best candidate for the post that he has held since 2009.

“I have one advantage: the right wing absolutely rejects me, the left wing does not propose that I run, the future member of the executive power - because the president is a member of executive power - said he will not appoint me,” Harabin said according to a video published on Sme.sk. “I have the best mandate to be the Supreme Court president because I am independent from the right wing, the left wing and the future president.”

Weirdly enough, this statement was uttered by a man who climbed to the Supreme Court top post directly from serving as justice minister backed by the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the party of controversial three-time prime minister Vladimír Mečiar.

The fact that there is a consensus across the political spectrum over the fact that the judiciary has had enough of Harabin does not necessarily mean that politicians want him out because they think that he is “too independent”. Maybe just for once, they have understood that the lack of public trust in the judiciary can no longer be ignored.

Of course, some politicians might have been driven by far more utilitarian impulses than the declared effort to reform the judiciary, and maybe there is an effort to put a nicer wrapping over what will continue to be a rotten core, but still none of this makes Harabin a good candidate.

When asked why he thinks he did not get enough votes from members of the Judicial Council, Harabin responded that perhaps they, the judges, got scared of the politicians because the politicians are pulling their strings. Perhaps unwittingly, Harabin was describing one of the many ills plaguing the Slovak judiciary, to which he has greatly contributed.

Fear is a bad master for an independent judge, and Harabin’s critics have several times suggested that he has contributed to the atmosphere of fear and intimidation by abusing disciplinary proceedings.

Well, Harabin was right in at least one thing: he is not finished yet. The rules suggest that the failed candidates from the first election cannot run in the second vote, but if the Judicial Council repeats another round with a series of feeble candidates and fails to elect a new president, then Harabin can run again in a third vote. If he wins, then his fate will lie in the hands of president-elect Andrej Kiska, who has already said he would not be willing to appoint Harabin.

In Harabin’s parallel universe Kiska would not be a president, but instead he would be in jail, as Harabin suggested in his post-election interview when asked about the future president.

“In a democratic and legal society, a man who has headed companies of which the Supreme Court has several times said violated the law, should not even be sworn in,” said Harabin according to Sme.

“If the legal norm that is valid in Hungary were valid here, Mr Kiska would probably be in prison.”

These statements ring familiar as Prime Minister Robert Fico during his presidential campaign accused Kiska of “usury” to describe his former rent-to-own companies, Triangel and Quatro. Daniel Lipšic, the leader of the extra-parliamentary NOVA party, then suggested that many people might confuse the companies co-founded by Kiska and sold to VÚB bank in 2005 with unlicensed non-banking companies providing loans to low-income groups at unethically high interest rates.

Fico’s campaign wasn’t effective, and people chose Kiska to be their president. There is yet hope that the Judicial Council judges will see that Harabin will share Fico’s fate.

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