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Guest Column: A hundred and one days since September

The first basic political change since the elections is the incredible decline in the influence and powers of the HZDS. This once confident movement, once beloved by the nation, journalists and many of today's already "sensible" politicians - from Kňažko through Kováč, Gaulieder and Mjartan - is on its knees. The official winner of the elections, the HZDS needed only three months of Mečiar's holiday in the woods and the departure of Kubiš from STV. It is a transparent truth that the HZDS was a movement of one man bound up with a lot of state propaganda.


"The cornered expression in his eyes" - former P.M. Vladimír Mečiar greets photographers at a January 30 party congress.
photo: Sme

The first basic political change since the elections is the incredible decline in the influence and powers of the HZDS. This once confident movement, once beloved by the nation, journalists and many of today's already "sensible" politicians - from Kňažko through Kováč, Gaulieder and Mjartan - is on its knees. The official winner of the elections, the HZDS needed only three months of Mečiar's holiday in the woods and the departure of Kubiš from STV. It is a transparent truth that the HZDS was a movement of one man bound up with a lot of state propaganda.

Without Mečiar, the movement has lost all of its grit. During the post-election period, not one voice worth listening to has come from its interior. It has formed no clear alliances, nor has it advanced any useful legislative proposal... If Mečiar does not find the strength to return, and his statements and the cornered expression in his eyes do not support this, its possible that the HZDS will gradually dissolve as a long-term dominant political force in Slovakia.

The second basic result of the past months has been the formation of a somewhat acceptable government. The Dzurinda cabinet is the best possible. It's better than the Czech, comparable to the Hungarian and only a little bit worse than the Polish cabinet.

During its first 100 days, the government has shown the following:

1. It is a democratic government. Neither in the division of powers nor in the behaviour of the Prime Minister can we identify any undemocratic steps. Fears that Dzurinda would turn out to be a second Mečiar have so far proven unfounded. In fact, his authority and his involvement in the government is less than might be desired - the Prime Minister's passivity during the presentation of the unpopular economic package borders on irresponsibility.

2. It's a handyman government. Having inherited a broken state, it has no ambition to give it a new face, only to repair the old one. This is the price of the wide spectrum of groups the government includes - socialists, clientelists, liberals, conservatives and free-market representatives. We cannot expect from them a post-November Klausian vision of how communism could be transformed into capitalism... The most we can expect is rational management of the country. Changes to the system will have to wait until later.

3. It's a European, but not a completely pro-Western government. Pro-Western words are sometimes mixed with pro-Eastern acts, of which the key is the ongoing settlement of Russian debt by imports of Russian weapons and the our unsolved dependence on Russian gas and nuclear fuel.

4. It's a government which lacks dynamics. Many legislative proposals that have already been prepared are shelved or postponed. This will prove most dangerous for Ivan Mikloš - it may happen that the halo of the most radical reformer will in time fade to the label of a Deputy Prime Minister who only spoke of reform.

5. It's still a very clientist government. This much has been apparent during the replacement of people in state administration and at the heads of state companies. Too many positions were filled with people on a partisan or family basis, too few were given to real experts.

Štefan Hríb
is a reporter for Domino Fórum, where this article first appeared

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