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Reader feedback: Extremists still a threat

Re: The finger pointing begins, Volume 12, Number 25, June 26 - July 2, 2006

One of the worst things about Slovak politics is what Czech political scientist Jiří Pehe called the Bolshevism of left and right in an article I saw in SME. By Bolshevism he means a desire for total victory, the utter liquidation of enemies.

You can see this clearly on Fico. He founded Smer out of disgust at the compromise the SDL made by going into government with the right wing parties in 1998. Time and again he rejected opportunities to do deals and his parliamentary opposition was nothing but attempts to recall this or that minister or wild claims of corruption and the destruction of this or that aspect of Slovak society. He wanted to wreck and he is fuelled by apocalyptic visions.

On the other hand, the post 2002 Dzurinda government was also marked by a scheme to not annihilate the left, at least prevent it from forming a meaningful government. The key to this was a revolutionary transformation of Slovak society. The key to this was the pension reform, Dzurinda's equivalent of Margaret Thatcher selling council houses. The pension reform makes a large part of the Slovak population very sensitive to financial markets overnight (Thatcher achieved the same thing through giving everyone a mortgage and making them worry about interest rates). So we should all vote for what will keep the market happy, and Dzurinda is the financial players' man. A side benefit is that while the pension reform will help to balance the budget in the long term, it will deepen the deficit in the short term as the government income sent to private pension funds can no longer be filched for spending. A double whammy for a government with social programmes: nothing in the kitty and if they borrow a lot, their voters pensions will take a hammering.

Now you have a system that requires reductions in the size of government. Right wingers explode with glee. There's just one problem - reducing the state in size is politically impossible. Through hatchet man Zajac the health sector was attacked but nothing was done in education. The SMK has been going around telling everyone it blocked these reforms. Dzurinda never had and never will have a mandate for them.

As elsewhere, people are happy to vote for lower taxes and bigger pensions but not for privatised schools and hospitals with less certain, more expensive services. We're just irrational like that. It is very irresponsible of the Slovak right to keep promising money, money, money and a knowledge-based economy.

You could see Dzurinda moving back towards being serious about public services when he brought Mrs Radičová onto the team but it was too little too late and it looked like window dressing (which it probably was - this years disposable Martináková).

Slovakia is still in danger from extremists, clowns and adventurers of left, right and nationalist persuasions. To stop this we need people of left and right who are willing to work together to provide good public services and a good market environment. But God knows where they're going to come from.

Roger,
Žilina

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