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PRESS digest: SME DAILY

"Stepping out of his own shadow"
By Peter Javurek


Mikuláš Dzurinda at the November 17 SDKÚ congress wants to offer his own vision for the future of the party in the coming years. This is something that is of interest not only to members of his party and his supporters. The line that Dzurinda lays down for the SDKÚ for its role in opposition and its allies and rivals could influence the direction and quality of political discourse in the country.

It will be interesting to see how Dzurinda deals with his party's election defeat, and if he even admits it, which is something he has not done so far. This fact is actually not all that important for the 423,000 voters who gave him their support in June elections. It is more important for all those people who would have given the SDKÚ their vote if they hadn't been tired of the way the party governed, and if they hadn't been sickened by the party's overbearing campaign, in which it presented itself as the only alternative.

It will also be interesting to see how Dzurinda deals with the fact that, five months after elections, the topics of the elections have been pushed to the sidelines, such as protection of reforms, which does not interest most voters today. This is partly because Robert Fico has chosen a compromise approach that has allowed him to duck the topic, and partly also because his performance in government has opened up entirely different topics.

In terms of the party's future development, it will be most important how the SDKÚ chairman defines his party's relationship to the rest of the spectrum. Will he finally be able to drop his idea of cooperating with Mečiar's HZDS? An idea that is not only immoral, but - given that reforms are no longer the issue of the day - has also lost its original pragmatic defense (i.e. that reforms would be saved). It is not possible to resolutely distance himself from Smer and at the same time to snuggle up to Smer's partner in the government. The HZDS is busy proving after the elections that it doesn't deserve a second chance.

In order for Dzurinda to bring fresh air to the political discourse in Slovakia on Friday, he must step out from under his own shadow. Not that it's impossible - it just doesn't happen all that often in politics.

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