By Peter Schutz
The SDKÚ opposition party organizes its congresses exclusively on November 17, which ostentatiously is meant to mean something. But this latest meeting only confirmed that this ostensibly modern and European party suffers from childhood post-communist diseases. The SDKÚ is of course a different case from the HZDS and Smer, but its symptoms give it away. And it appears they are untreatable.
Above all: Nowhere else in the world do the congresses of large parties last only four or six hours. Normally they last at least a whole day, from early morning until night, and sometimes even several days. This is because parties are living organisms, and their members always have something to say to the leadership.
But in the SDKÚ, no internal debate exists. It is dead, and these congresses are only a formality. The party is ruled by an unwritten consensus: We won't interfere in your little deals and coalitions at the municipal level, and you don't stick your noses into "high politics" that you don't understand. Those who keep their mouths shut and stay in line are included on the party's candidates list, some even in a spot high enough to win a seat in parliament. In such a party there is no pressure from below, no natural movement and self-reflection, and thus no catharsis. After every internal "election", posts and spheres of influence are divided up among the narrow group of "strong" party members, who in this way prolong their political lives and existential comfort.
The SDKÚ lost the recent elections, and was defeated by its main rival. The fact that the SDKÚ managed to form a government in 2002 with a worse result is misleading. If the leadership of any other party were to try and "interpret" an election result that was higher than pre-election expectations as a success in such circumstances, it would lead at least to a serious debate. The leader of such a party might even resign, or at least offer his resignation in a civilized gesture.
The 382 votes that Dzurinda got at the SDKÚ congress, with no vote cast against him and no opponent, is so absurd that it testifies to only one thing: the members of the SDKÚ did not join the party to practice politics, but for another reason entirely. The fear of running against Dzurinda or even against the party's six vice-chairmen is characteristic of communist-type parties. Changes in the leadership, on the other hand, are the basic motor driving parties forward, not always to a better future, but at least away from collapse, with the healthy proviso that no one can ever be certain of his position. But what impulse can we expect from a leader who is re-elected automatically, or from a party in which the principle of competition is dead?
Before Saturday's congress of the ODS party in the Czech Republic, there was a lot of speculation that Mirek Topolánek, who had won five party elections in a row, was threatened by a revolt from the regional structures, which objected to his decision to form a coalition with the ČSSD. The fact that Dzurinda promotes a coalition with the HZDS in Slovakia is seen as "only" a problem, however, and not his alone. But the fact that not even a whisper of debate was heard in the SDKÚ on this topic, on which everyone else has already said as much as they can, is evidence that something is rotten within the party.
It is of course necessary to erect a dike to the "Bolshevic-populist experiment" that Robert Fico is conducting. But the material that this dike is built of is also important to consider.