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PRESS digest: PRAVDA DAILY

News item: Ruling Smer party MEP Monika Beňová unlikely to be re-elected party vice-chair during weekend congress.


Fico vs Mečiar
By Dag Daniš


Ahead of Smer's weekend congress, the cards are already on the table. Monika Beňová-Flašíková is finished as a member of the party management. On the other hand, the Fico political wing will be strengthened, as Culture Minister Marek Maďarič should join Deputy PM Dušan Čaplovič in the inner circle with Fico.

The strengthening of the political/ideological wing at the expense of the business group in Smer does not mean that Smer will now be flying its socialist colours more openly, however. The party's nationalist strain will instead be buttressed.

Maďarič and Čaplovič were always members of the nationalist wing in Smer. Following elections they supported a coalition with the SNS and HZDS in an attempt to build a "national" government without the Hungarian Coalition Party. Even then the national principle in Smer dominated over the socialist, and this weekend congress will only confirm that fact.

Smer now moves into a political domain that used to belong to the HZDS. Fico will become - and apparently long remain - the new leader of Mečiar's old stomping grounds. His party will be first and foremost a nationalist, and to a certain extent a radical one; it will only be socialist as an afterthought, and even then more as a people's party than a typical left-wing organization. Above all, Fico's party looks certain to remain popular among voters.

Fico has made maximum use of the chances he was offered. His success is due not so much to his own abilities as to the incompetence of others, such as Mečiar, who proved unable to hold on to his former voters and political territory, or Fico's right-wing opponents, who didn't even try to use this fact.

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