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EDITORIAL

Three dramas and a funeral

Tragedy: "Drama of elevated theme and diction with unhappy events or ending; calamity, serious accident or crime."
Civil conflict is inherently tragic. At the moment, Slovakia is merely seriously divided, both socially and politically. But the opposition is planning to mobilize citizens against an increasingly illegitimate government, starting with a petition drive for a new referendum on direct Presidential elections, and culminating in September's national election. If no new President is elected by Parliament, and if the Mečiar government thwarts a third referendum on the same question, then there will be no one to accept the resignation of the government if it loses the vote in September.

Tragedy: "Drama of elevated theme and diction with unhappy events or ending; calamity, serious accident or crime."

Civil conflict is inherently tragic. At the moment, Slovakia is merely seriously divided, both socially and politically. But the opposition is planning to mobilize citizens against an increasingly illegitimate government, starting with a petition drive for a new referendum on direct Presidential elections, and culminating in September's national election. If no new President is elected by Parliament, and if the Mečiar government thwarts a third referendum on the same question, then there will be no one to accept the resignation of the government if it loses the vote in September.

Slovak citizens can be compared to prisoners serving a lengthy term in jail. For the moment, people are content to keep their own counsel, to avoid provoking their jailor by open opposition to government actions. But if Mečiar manipulates national elections, and levies another four year sentence on patient Slovak prisoners, then people will go to the streets in earnest. A tragic final act would ensue.


Comedy: "Light, amusing and often satirical stage-play, chiefly representing everyday life and having a happy ending."

Comedies typically contain elements of drama, but invariably conclude with the hero getting the girl and everybody applauding as the happy couple embarks on a bright future. There has been precious little to smile about during Slovakia's first five years of independence, but if Slovaks are empowered, either by a referendum or by a Parliamentary resolution, to elect a new President on the same day that they choose a new Parliament, then the way would be cleared for the present government to resign and a new administration to embrace the nation.

This is not to suggest that the HZDS must lose or the opposition win for September to end in comedy. But a new President would restore balance to executive power in Slovakia, while free and fair elections would go a long way towards convincing the world that Slovakia was on its way back to respecting democratic principles and the rule of law.


Farce: "Dramatic work meant merely to cause laughter, often by presenting ludicrously improbable events; absurdly futile proceedings."

During former President Michal Kováč's five-year term in office, the relationship between Slovakia's government and head of state had all the elements of farce. The President was called on to resign and branded a traitor. His powers were whittled away and his office budget slashed. His son was beaten up, kidnapped and dumped over the Austrian border: a picture of a weeping Kováč was lampooned by the government daily Slovenská Republika.

Mečiar has fared no better at the hands of Kováč's supporters, who have branded him a dictator, a neo-fascist and a criminal. Divisions at the top of Slovakia's power structure have fractured society as whole and kept Slovakia off the fast track to EU and NATO membership.

But if Mečiar were now to be elected President - his party claims he is still their "number one choice," while Mečiar himself has said that he could get the necessary votes in Parliament - and the opposition were to win in September, then Slovakia would face another four years of Tom and Jerry political farce. Improbable, ludicrous and futile.


And a funeral:

Very simple. If Mečiar scraped together enough votes in Parliament to amend the Constitution - to manipulate elections, to consolidate executive power under himself in the Presidential office - then Slovakia's international isolation would be final and irrevocable, and its domestic misery best summed up by W.H. Auden's Funeral Blues:


The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

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