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EDITORIAL

Are they normal?

March 17 must have been a black day for the Christian Democrats in the Lamač suburb of Bratislava. The man they had recruited and then fought so hard to retain on the sports and education committee, Juraj Ondrejčák a.k.a. Piťo, resigned after reports circulated in the press that he was the boss of a Bratislava Mafia group.

Above, members of the Piťo gang in Lamač are frisked by special forces officers as part of an ongoing police campaign to keep the reputed Mafia group at bay. On March 17, Piťo resigned his seat on a Lamač local education committee.
March 17 must have been a black day for the Christian Democrats in the Lamač suburb of Bratislava. The man they had recruited and then fought so hard to retain on the sports and education committee, Juraj Ondrejčák a.k.a. Piťo, resigned after reports circulated in the press that he was the boss of a Bratislava Mafia group. He said he was resigning for Lamáč, that he couldn't stand the name of his hometown being dragged through the mud. What a guy.

But what are we to make of his political backers? First they said they didn't know who he was (a bold fiction in tiny Lamáč), and had nominated him because he was "an active parent" who "finances sports and educational activities". When they found out he was known for other skills besides organizing football tournaments, they said "we are not going to hire and fire people based on media recommendations". And when the Christian Democrat top brass urged them to get rid of Piťo, they pretended he wasn't their horse after all, and that "he has strong informal and friendly ties with the other coalition".

The case of Commissioner Piťo gave us a glimpse of the sordid calculations that rule municipal politics. If there was a message in what the local KDH party wing was saying, it was this: "Local Mafia bosses have lots of money and influence. We want to use it for political gain, just like every other party."

The case also allowed Piťo to masquerade as a public-spirited citizen who would have turned Lamač into Las Vegas if he had been left alone by the media. He wouldn't be the first Mafia boss to mythologize himself in this way. Former police vice-president Jaroslav Spišiak told this newspaper back in 2002 that "local Mafia bosses try to become local patriots in the areas they control, and actively feed these images. We have cases of mob bosses buying all the patrons of a bar a round, or of delivering coal to old widows in the winter."

Piťo would surely not have objected to gaining a reputation as a local Pied Piper leading the children of Lamač to healthier lifestyles, but the question is whether a normal political party would have given him that chance, and especially whether it would have allowed him to resign with honour rather than being cast out. So what's the problem here - does it lie with Slovak politics, or with our understanding of what is normal?


Tom Nicholson

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