The lesser evil

DO NOT VOTE for the lesser evil, proclaims an election slogan of the tiny right-wing Civil Conservative Party (OKS) that is shakily anchored to the ceiling of Bratislava's Zichy Palace. Well-wishers say the slogan, like the former anti-communist fighters who defend it, is a sign the party has both outlived its use and ignored the name of the democratic game - political compromise.
According to political opinion polls the OKS has little chance of succeeding in September elections, in which contestants must secure five per cent of the vote to be given seats in parliament. In a June opinion poll carried out by the MVK polling agency, the OKS scored 0.3 per cent.
Party sympathisers see something heroic yet pathetic in the stances taken by OKS leaders, who have been tireless advocates of market reform since assembling under the banner of the anti-communist Public Against Violence in 1989. Many current OKS members are academics rather than career politicians, and advocate a pure anti-corruption, pro-market and democracy line the current government has not been able to match in action.


OKS LEADERS František Šebej (left) and Peter Tatar want Slovaks to give their votes to responsible politicians.
photo: TASR

DO NOT VOTE for the lesser evil, proclaims an election slogan of the tiny right-wing Civil Conservative Party (OKS) that is shakily anchored to the ceiling of Bratislava's Zichy Palace. Well-wishers say the slogan, like the former anti-communist fighters who defend it, is a sign the party has both outlived its use and ignored the name of the democratic game - political compromise.

According to political opinion polls the OKS has little chance of succeeding in September elections, in which contestants must secure five per cent of the vote to be given seats in parliament. In a June opinion poll carried out by the MVK polling agency, the OKS scored 0.3 per cent.

Party sympathisers see something heroic yet pathetic in the stances taken by OKS leaders, who have been tireless advocates of market reform since assembling under the banner of the anti-communist Public Against Violence in 1989. Many current OKS members are academics rather than career politicians, and advocate a pure anti-corruption, pro-market and democracy line the current government has not been able to match in action.

"I love these guys, but they break my heart," said aging political scientist Miroslav Kusý last year. "They're not politicians."

The OKS is campaigning to push through an improved strategy for state power decentralisation, a new Constitution, and cutting the number of ministerial posts from the current 20 to 11 in order to save taxpayer money.

Their slogan urges voters to side with the OKS despite a rule saying ballots for parties that don't make it into parliament are shared out among those that do. OKS leaders say that despite the danger their votes will thus be 'wasted', the electorate should support honest politicians rather than those who give attractive but unrealistic promises.

"Many people tell us 'we would vote for you but we fear that our votes will be wasted because you won't have enough to get into parliament and push through your programme," says Peter Zajac, on the OKS' programme council.

"But we believe our success will come when the attitude of these people changes and they say 'we will vote for you so you can carry out the programme."

Grigorij Mesežnikov, head of the Institute for Public Affairs think tank, remembers the OKS leadership as "key figures in the events before and after the fall of communism in 1989, people later credited for their uncompromising stance against the autocratic rule of the [1994-1998] Vladimír Mečiar government".

However Mesežnikov, like Comenius University political science head Soňa Szomolányi, said the party had clearly not been able to adapt to the trend in Slovakia towards larger parties with more populist platforms.

"The OKS' weakness lies in its absolute lack of understanding of the main part of politics - compromise," said Szomolányi.

"Even in developed democracies people usually vote for the least unacceptable option. The OKS seems to lack a sense of reality.

"What's the use of someone who writes brilliant essays but doesn't have the power to achieve their goals? Politics is about finding compromises, not proposing ideal concepts whose implementation is not realistic," she said.

It's a criticism which was heard for years in the Democratic Party (DS), the OKS' predecessor, and which caused the departure of some of the party's main political capital.

Current Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Ivan Mikloš, who left the Democratic Party for PM Mikuláš Dzurinda's SDKÚ party in 2001, told The Slovak Spectator in May last year that "for 10 years I believed that the party's influence could be increased. I also believed it could change its form of doing politics, to make the 'package' we enclosed our policies in more attractive to voters. In the end I saw that the most influential people in the DS leadership were not prepared to change anything, not even in the packaging. They weren't even prepared to discuss it."

OKS head Peter Tatár admitted the party might not enter parliament after September, but said its time would come.

"Even if we don't succeed, the programme will be ready on table in a few years. Until then there will be no one to carry out these steps anyway," he said.

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