Watching a new government trying to get its act together can be as depressing as watching an old one cling to power.
Ever since the four parties of the former opposition declared on September 27 their solidarity and determination to form Slovakia's next government, mean-spirited wrangling has become the tone of their negotiations.
The Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ), which won a surprising 14.7% of the vote, has been the chief culprit. The party has long had an unsavoury reputation as being willing to sell itself to the highest political bidder, and now that it sees itself in the role of kingmaker, party members (in particular, leader Jozef Migaš and deputies Pavol Kanis, Robert Fico and Ľubomir Fogaš) have been slowing the negotiation process with their ridiculous objections to the inclusion of the Hungarian party in the government.
The SDĽ claims that the Hungarians still don't accept the 1997 decision of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, which ruled in favour of Slovakia against Hungary in the Gabčíkovo dam dispute. The SDĽ also says that the Hungarians want to have the Beneš Decrees, which provided for the post-war deportation of Slovak Hungarians, re-opened and ultimately cancelled. In defying these demands, the SDĽ says, it is representing the true interests of Slovak citizens.
Nonsense. What the SDĽ is doing is trying to keep the future coalition down to three parties so that it will be able to capture more ministerial posts in the new cabinet. The language and tactics the party is using to achieve this goal are so crass that one is reminded of the past four years and the wretched anti-Hungarian drivel of the former Mečiar government. The Hungarians, of course, are beside themselves with rage, as it appears that a government role may be snatched from their grasp at the last moment.
Meanwhile, the largest opposition party, the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), has started its expected meltdown into the five individual parties which merged to form it. These parties have begun holding their own press conferences and peddling their political wares, giving the stromg impression that the SDK will not last until Christmas.
It's all so depressing, because if Slovakia needs one thing desperately, it is a government of civic-minded people willing to swallow their egos and cooperate in solving the nation's deepening economic crisis. What the country definitely does not need is another government in which the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.