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BY MÁRIUS KOPCSAY

Prime minister starts on eight-year marathon

Prime Minister Robert Fico is not known for his love of the marathon event as was his predecessor, Mikuláš Dzurinda, but at the same time he may succeed in also winning two terms. Already, so soon after the starter's gun, Fico is showing he has the stamina and a head for tactics.

Prime Minister Robert Fico is not known for his love of the marathon event as was his predecessor, Mikuláš Dzurinda, but at the same time he may succeed in also winning two terms. Already, so soon after the starter's gun, Fico is showing he has the stamina and a head for tactics.

Above all, the new PM has a gift of saying things that please his followers. He recently explained his visit to the Cuban embassy reception by saying he would always do what he thought was right, and wouldn't let anyone else tell him where to go and whom to meet. This brought him political gain by allowing him to masquerade as the sovereign leader of a sovereign country, whatever the opposition said about his support for totalitarian regimes. It also allowed him to escape the accusation of truckling to the US, which is what hurt his predecessor. Fico has been rewarded for these stances with record popularity, but he refuses to be distracted. Rather than comment on his popularity, he continues to tell people how he drives his own car to work, and isn't even above vacuuming it. Quite simply, the wind is at his back.

His supporters are also much more faithful than right-wing voters, who had to hold their nose to vote Dzurinda in 2006. Fico's voters are far less critical of him - on the contrary, they believe in him and agree with him, and feel personally insulted if anyone attacks him. Maybe this is why Fico realizes that he could relinquish his post as head of Smer, and just remain prime minister. He will certainly be strong enough to win again in 2010 unless his government screws up badly, such as by letting the deficit rise and foil Slovakia's entry to the euro-zone, or by getting mired in corruption scandals like the Dzurinda government.


Pravda, January 30

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