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Backing down

Every political party learns to quietly back down from a position it has taken. It's perhaps as difficult as declaring a vision in the first place.

Every political party learns to quietly back down from a position it has taken. It's perhaps as difficult as declaring a vision in the first place. It is becoming clear that the Smer party is the master of such retreats. It began with the retreat from the party's election program (taxes), continued with the Regulation Act, the draft law to hasten the construction of freeways, and now the Labour Code, pension savings and the health system. The resistance to these changes is enormous, and even comes from within (the Finance Ministry, the Anti-Monopoly Bureau). It is also based on solid arguments, many of them backed up by the Constitution, and these are hard to overlook.

Like the forced re-insurance of hundreds of thousands of people, the Labour Code is an enormous trap for Smer. On the one side are pre-election promises it made to the unions, on the other the objections of employers. Laws that support the unions don't bring an additional crown into the state budget, unlike those that benefit managers and owners of companies. On the other hand, managers and the owners of capital don't vote for Smer. A fine dilemma. The continuation of the "presentation of reactions" to the law within Smer following the conclusion of the regular process is more a retreat manoeuvre than a genuine attempt to find a compromise. Sure, Smer wouldn't have so much retreating to do if its leaders didn't advance so quickly. But there are major differences between running a political rally and leading a country, and these differences should be respected. One difference leaps to mind - rallies are usually attended by supporters rather than opponents of the party. It's not so easy with running a country. However, it is far better for Smer to be able to back down than to stubbornly insist on its own way and lead the country astray. So far it is working out for the party, as people are more interested in its vision that in its retreats. But this could change.

As long as Smer is capable of listening to sensible arguments and warnings, part of which is PM Fico keeping a rein on his ego, neither the growth in the GDP nor how to divide it up will be a major topic in this election cycle. A healthy economy tends not to make an interesting political issue, rather like love. Other issues will come. Who will bring them up?

Sme, March 14

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