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EDITORIAL

HZDS: The soap opera

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has been truly resistant to any kind of party reform. Just as its boss Vladimír Mečiar has been resistant to self-reflection. When the party metamorphosed, or at least pretended to evolve, it was mostly for the sake of making Mečiar's position even cushier and more permanent.

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has been truly resistant to any kind of party reform. Just as its boss Vladimír Mečiar has been resistant to self-reflection. When the party metamorphosed, or at least pretended to evolve, it was mostly for the sake of making Mečiar's position even cushier and more permanent.

The HZDS is built around Mečiar, who notoriously keeps repeating that he knows best what his party needs and desires. There were times when he felt the same about the whole country and told a Stern magazine journalist in 1998, during his pathetic departure from power, that his "fingers are on the pulse of the nation".

The time for a change has not arrived yet, says Mečiar, whenever he is asked about yielding the HZDS' wheel to the younger generation or to someone who does not carry the same baggage as he does. Today, Mečiar is Slovakia's longest-ruling politician, but quite honestly, neither Mečiar nor his party know what to do with this "badge of honour".

The HZDS has been suffering from a strange schizophrenia, as it is unable to continue without Mečiar sitting on its shoulders, a burden that is becoming increasingly heavy to bear. With Mečiar, the HZDS is unlikely to gain new voters, but without him, the party would lose even its traditional ones who still see the ageing man, whose statements are making even less sense now than they did in the past, as the iron-fisted leader who will protect them from the enemies of the nation.

Mečiar said he was forced to run for re-election, otherwise the party would not live to see the next parliamentary elections. The HZDS boss has already suggested that the leadership might meet for another congress to deal with party statutes, which already grant him almost limitless power. It is very improbable that the new leadership will be meeting in order to curb this power.

Does it matter at all to society how much power Mečiar has in his own pet party? Does it matter what methods he uses within the HZDS to do away with those who oppose him? Since he is now part of the ruling party trio along with the controversial Slovak National Party leader Ján Slota and the power-thirsty boss of Smer, Robert Fico, it actually does.

For many, the idea of Mečiar marching back into power had been unthinkable and the argument that he is not holding any top government post is just a painkiller. It doesn't heal the disappointment that comes from seeing the man who pushed Slovakia to the edge of international isolation in the mid 90s now sharing responsibility for decisions that impact the life of the nation.

The HZDS boss is a sort of political enigma that has revealed all its secrets, except the ones surrounding how he got his property and the involvement of the Slovak Intelligence Service in the abduction of Michal Kováč Jr. to Austria.

Probably the most genuine drama surrounding Mečiar's re-election to the HZDS' top post was the brain surgery of his challenger, Viliam Veteška, who was taken to the hospital with a brain tumour one day before the congress. Political analysts say that sooner or later Veteška will be stripped of his seat in parliament regardless of the developments surrounding his candidacy. Mečiar might forget his own statements and promises but he seemingly never forgets those who turn against him.

The party has spun off several "defector formations", as its boss dubbed parties founded by people who either challenged Mečiar's leadership and were kicked out or became such an embarrassment for the HZDS that the party got rid of them, calling it "party renewal."

The story of the HZDS is Slovakia's longest playing political soap opera. Many would happily turn off the programme but unfortunately there are still people who enjoy the show even though it keeps insulting their decency and the nation's intellect.


By Beata Balogová

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