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EDITORIAL

Pandora’s Box and the soap opera

HERE are two things the otherwise talkative Vladimír Mečiar does not like to chat about. Even the mention of these two issues irritates the hell out of the man who has been prime minister of Slovakia three times, served as interior minister, assumed the presidential powers for couple weeks back in 1998, and seems to be glued to the top chair in the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS).

THERE are two things the otherwise talkative Vladimír Mečiar does not like to chat about. Even the mention of these two issues irritates the hell out of the man who has been prime minister of Slovakia three times, served as interior minister, assumed the presidential powers for couple weeks back in 1998, and seems to be glued to the top chair in the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS).

Time has not helped to wash the acid from these two issues. They inflame Mečiar’s nerves just like they did five or seven years ago.

The HZDS boss has revealed many of his secrets over the years – except the ones about how he got his property, and how the Slovak Intelligence Service was involved in the abduction of Michal Kováč, Jr. to Austria.

And Mečiar has very specifically expressed his dislike towards these topics. Back in 2002, the HZDS boss almost hit a reporter from the JOJ private television channel, Ľuboslav Choluj, when he asked Mečiar twice where he got the money to pay for his lavish Elektra villa in western Slovakia’s Trenčianske Teplice.

Anyone who has dared to bring up the issue of the abduction of Michal Kováč, Jr., the former president’s son, and more importantly the amnesties that he granted to these cases when he was acting president in 1998 also risked a vehement reaction from Mečiar, who had been hoping that the masses have a short memory.

In the abduction case, both Slovak investigators and a Vienna court suspected the involvement of the Slovak Intelligence Service under the leadership of Mečiar’s close ally, Ivan Lexa. However, the amnesties helped those involved to escape court trials.

Many of Mečiar’s political opponents shoved these topics into a dark corner of their minds, especially when they needed the HZDS to vote along their lines or, for example, to provide silent support for a cabinet that could no longer rely on its own MPs. And they called it political pragmatism.

Robert Fico also promptly forgot – or rather, pretended not to remember – the amnesties and the villa that Mečiar financed in a rather mysterious way.

But Fico raised these two issues in the midst of a ruling coalition crisis that looked like a soap opera where family members quarrel, hurt each other and emotionally blackmail each other, serving up overflowing pathos and faked drama. Then they tell the audience that it all was just a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. And they live happily ever after – or rather, until the next episode comes to entertain the public or lure sympathisers.

But this time, Fico has done much more. Maybe he does not even know how far he went when he told Mečiar at a ruling coalition meeting that he was in favour of verifying the origin of suspicious properties and reopening the issue of the amnesties.

Local media reported that Mečiar stormed out of the meeting and said that Fico was pushing him out from the ruling coalition. Fico has not confirmed bringing up the amnesty and property issues, but SNS leader Ján Slota did.

By mentioning these issues, Fico opened a Pandora’s Box. Even if the relationship had always been testy between the two men, after these moments, things will never be the same for the humiliated Mečiar.

And who is gaining what from these statements?

“Fico is a child of fortune,” Mečiar said, explaining the events of the past couple days for journalists. “He does not have an opposition and the chairmen of the coalition parties do not have (leadership) ambitions.”

As far as the opposition is concerned he is actually right. Yet it is very unlikely that Fico would actually join the opposition in a vote on annulling Mečiar’s amnesties, which still prevent the legal system from touching the abduction case.

The now-opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) made the fifth attempt in six years to convince the parliament to overturn the amnesties in October 2006.

Political analyst Samuel Abrahám said Fico has created the perfect chance for the opposition to submit another law to annul the amnesties.

“Fico has released something that is the worst legacy of the Mečiar era,” Abraham said in an interview with The Slovak Spectator. “Analysts and media now have to confront him with these statements and make sure he keeps his word.”

It is more likely that Fico will only use those two issues when the need emerges to discipline Mečiar. And yet the HZDS boss deserves Fico as partner, and he would deserve to receive one final kick out of politics – which the cancellation of his amnesties and the investigation into his property would be – from someone who shares his attributes.

There is a saying that each nation deserves the government it elects. But what if only half of the nation wanted it and the other half is not entertained by the coalition crisis soap operas?

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