The first time this paper wrote an editorial was in May 1997, in the form of an open letter to then-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar for an answer as to why his government had thwarted a referendum on direct presidential elections.
The political situation is far less dramatic now than it was then, but the need for a public appeal to sense among the current prime minister's colleagues is perhaps no less strong. The process of reform the Dzurinda government started appears to becoming bogged down in the weary everyday business of doing politics in this country. Much depends on the success of these reforms, from integration with the EU and NATO to investment, the political fortunes of the government in the 2002 elections, and the increased freedom of ordinary people to decide their own lives.
Whatever Mikuláš Dzurinda's shortcomings as a politician, he has the right idea - that the country is now better served by a few large political parties than a patchwork of marginal ones. The recent decision of the Christian Democrats to leave the strongest government party and found a new parliamentary caucus does not contribute to the unity of the cabinet, but rather weakens the prime minister precisely at the moment he needs to rally the troops and call the coalition to order for the next round of reform.
Dzurinda's SDK support in parliament has declined from 42 seats after 1998 elections to the 19 SDK members who have backed his SDKÚ party. If the prime minister doesn't receive aid quickly, he will eventually have to cede more power over coalition decisions to the former communist SDĽ party of Jozef Migaš.
That the SDĽ is no friend of reform has long been evident, and was most recently on display at an investment conference in The Hague. Agriculture Minister Pavol Koncoš, a hulking SDĽ official with all the personal magnetism of an ear of corn, read out a speech whose leaden metre and content captured his party's view of the world, and its conviction that little has changed since investors were an exotic and dimly appreciated breed.
The Agriculture Ministry, his translator intoned, administered a list of goods that took several minutes to enumerate before the impatient delegates: "Cattle products and live cattle, goats, sheep, rams and lambs..." (the transcript is not precise, since the ministry was not able in the week before we went to print to furnish an exact copy of the speech).
If the government is not to be taken hostage by the SDĽ and its wooden, plodding style, all SDK politicians have to heed Dzurinda's appeal that they act responsibly - that they were elected as members for the SDK, and have no brief to be launching independent caucuses, no matter how burning their ambitions.
"...barley, wheat, flax and derivative products, peas, beans both green and ground varieties..."
Perhaps the only politician who can tip the balance is Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Ivan Mikloš. His popularity now stands at almost 8%, and he is now seen less as a cold technocrat than as perhaps the only member of the government who has managed to stay out of political squabbles during his two years in office. By enlisting this popularity in the support of the prime minister, he would be adding strength to perhaps the only remaining member party of the coalition which has any interest in seeing reform continue. And while it may pain him to leave his Democratic Party to its meager fortunes, especially as his colleagues were instrumental in leading the country after the fall of communism, we wonder whose interests would be served by his remaining with them - theirs, or those of a country which has changed unalterably since 1989, and needs resolute reformers far more than misty nostalgia?
Mikloš is weighing a very difficult political decision - whether to cast in his lot with Dzurinda's new SDKÚ party, or to try and reinflate the popularity of his Democratic Party. But sometimes, the price of keeping faith with one's political family is less steep than the cost of abandoning one's country to its political has-beans.
"...corn, flax, hemp, root crops, milk and all forms of dairy products..."
27. Nov 2000 at 0:00