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EDITORIAL

Reconciliation trumps agendas

"THE TRADITION of one strong party built on the principle of ethnicity is historically corrupt," has been the pet slogan of the opponents of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK). They have argued that the party systematically and diligently works to separate the Hungarian minority from Slovakia's political body. Some political analysts argue that only a sub-standard political arena could allow liberals, conservatives and Christian democrats to function within a party glued together by ethnicity.

"THE TRADITION of one strong party built on the principle of ethnicity is historically corrupt," has been the pet slogan of the opponents of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK). They have argued that the party systematically and diligently works to separate the Hungarian minority from Slovakia's political body. Some political analysts argue that only a sub-standard political arena could allow liberals, conservatives and Christian democrats to function within a party glued together by ethnicity.

The truth is, however, that Slovak political parties had a reason to envy the SMK for its stable voter base and the discipline party leaders were able to maintain within the party - or at least it seemed that way until recently.

The media have reported that Hungarian intellectuals who are unhappy with the new leadership of the SMK are toying with the idea of founding a new Hungarian party.

Such a development, though still greatly doubted by both political analysts and SMK representatives, would in fact shake the SMK, which rose from the ashes of the Hungarian Christian-Democratic Move-ment, the Hungarian Civil Initiative and the Coexistence.

During the unification process, the Christian-Conservative platform seemed to swallow the Civil-Liberal platform, and the former chairman of the rather conservative Coexistence, Miklós Duray, was pushed towards the sidelines, his mouth glued shut with a rather impotent honorary chairman post. The honorary post that former chair Béla Bugár recently gained was originally intended for the Coexistence to fill.

But today in a party where, according to political analyst László Öllős, Bugár's supporters currently make up 40 percent and Duray's backers make up 20 percent, the former Coexistence chairman is in charge of party strategies. He seems to have much more say under the command of new leader Pál Csáky, who has 40 percent support, than he did under Bugár's baton.

While the former SMK leadership handled the "autonomy" word with much diplomatic care, Duray has revived its usage in the party's political vocabulary. While discussions about, let's say, cultural autonomy are a legitimate topic in any democratic country, each time Duray pronounces the word he blows wind into the sails of Ján Slota, the boss of the far-right Slovak National Party, who takes much pleasure in responding to Duray.

For a while it seemed like the SMK would try to float its programme beyond ethnic borders. But now the party will have to seek ways to eliminate tensions within its ranks, so that its potential to pursue an agenda benefiting the Hungarian minority is not harmed.

Some say that Duray's statements are part of a legitimate discourse that is always healthy for a society, because its trains the population's ability to hear a variety of opinions and intelligently disagree. But they might be missing the mark in some cases, because Slota's reactions can be called many things besides intelligent disagreements.

That aside, some leading SMK politicians have often told critics of their ethnic agenda that if Slovak political parties ever screw up enough courage to pursue the Hungarian minority's interests, they would retire from politics. They all know, though, that at this point, no early retirement is hanging over their heads.

Political scientists agree that a new Hungarian party would only rip the voter base apart and Hungarian minority politicians would eventually be forced to re-unify again. Bugár, who was the only Hungarian to climb high in the political popularity charts, has already said that there is only one Hungarian party he feels like being part of and it is the SMK. He also called on the critics to try voicing their objections and solving them within the party itself.

Anyone who is speculating on whether the beginning of the end of the unified ethnic Hungarian party has started should probably remember that the man who has once called the Hungarians a misery of Europe is now part of the ruling coalition. That does not really suggest that the time when Hungarian voters will cast their ballots based on something other than their ethnic origin has arrived.

Indeed, analysts also say that Slota's presence in the government might be an inspiration for some of the radicalising tendencies within the Hungarian coalition.

A lasting Slovak-Hungarian political reconciliation takes away the agenda of cheap podium politicians, who then have to search for new enemies and new phobias to keep their vaporous political existence alive. So this should probably be the main agenda of any decent political party, ethnic or national.

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