MEMBERS of The Slovak Spectator staff, after a night listening to a local radio station, once decided that we should form an all-powerful music judgement tribunal, with the authority to call before us egregious sinners against good taste (i.e. Michael Jackson, Def Leppard) and wipe them off the face of the earth. "Blow them up real good," as John Candy used to say on the Canadian Second City comedy show.
Since live music and free beer have set the tone of Slovakia's election campaign 2002, at the expense of sensible ideas, we thought our music tribunal could also help clear some of the dead wood from the country's cluttered political landscape.
Let's start with Vladimír Mečiar's HZDS, for example, one of the seven parties which stand a chance of getting into parliament after September.
Mečiar's political music calls to mind an insincere crooner like Paul Anka, who hits an unbearably maudlin note and is then unaccountably showered with applause. Who buys Paul Anka records any more? Who still believes Mečiar's claims not to have looted public property? And hasn't his house blown up real good once already? Boom.
Moving on - Ivan Gašparovič's HZD, a Paul Anka rip off. Actually, the Senzus group that plays at HZD rallies suits the HZD to the ground. Electrified folk music that has spoiled more than a few Slovak weddings. Senzus and Gašparovič deserve no mercy for making a dog's breakfast of material that was flawed in the first place. Boom.
How about the non-parliamentary Ano party of Pavol Rusko? Now there's a guy who's tough on the ears, all thudding techno in his hammer-fisted abuse of his TV station to promote the party. Rusko himself comes on like a pre-teen act, so honey-tongued that even The Chipmunks would be embarrassed. Boom.
That leaves four parties. Among them, we believe, are politicians who have credible programmes, who haven't completely discredited themselves with gory scandals, and who might conceivably lead this country towards a better future.
The SMK Hungarian party, with its relentlessly ethnic music, is at times hard on the ears - a little goes along way for most of us. But they're about as honest as musicians get, have never been late for a gig, and have often played for free. They're not a sexy bunch, but they've served their country well in government.
The Christian Democrats, meanwhile, also get a reprieve, if nothing else for following a consistent programme. They have some 19th century views on homosexuals, they haven't cottoned on to changing family dynamics, and they have more than a nodding acquaintance with graft. Rather like organ music with Rammstein on the flip side. But like incorrigible farmers, they're solid citizens.
Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's SDKÚ party is perhaps the best of the lot, rather like a 70s and 80s radio station that often plays tunes people want to hear, particularly westerners. Solid rock, from respecting the rule of law to pushing through some tough legal and economic reforms. As a radio station, however, they're apt to play things that don't fit from time to time, like Platinum Blonde. Still, they're about the best chance foreigners will get in this country of hearing music they can relate to.
Finally we come to Robert Fico's Smer, which according to the latest polls leads the pack and may get the first crack at forming the government. Fico is like rapper Eminem - he plays catchy music, and most people aren't yet convinced that it's crap.
One sure way to find out is to put him in government. There, some of the blatantly anti-constitutional bills he has proposed will be properly jeered. With Fico as PM, people will be listening to a lot of rap over the next four years, and will have time to decide: Is he white or black? Fronting Russian or Slovak interests? A better friend of law or justice?
You'll have noticed that there are few political Pavarottis in Slovakia, leaders whose audiences feel they are in the hands of a moral authority. Nor are there any Sheryl Crowes, or Nirvanas (if hard economic times tend to produce great music, why have Slovakia's problems not nurtured great politicians?).
For all that, the SMK, KDH and SDKÚ have led the country back from the brink of disaster in the last four years, away from fiscal collapse and virtual legal anarchy, and for that deserve another turn on stage. Given their support in polls to date, they'll likely have no option but to work with Smer - a poor choice, but better than the bad acts the music tribunal has removed from circulation.
Who will form the next cabinet? *
Possible government coalitions with likely strength in parliament (76 seats are needed for majority government)
SMK + KDH + SDKÚ + Ano = 73
Smer + SMK + KDH + SDKÚ = 90
Smer + SMK + SDKÚ = 76
Smer + HZD + KDH + Ano = 76
Smer + HZDS + HZD = 77
* Calculated by Spectator staff from the results of three late-August polls by the National Education Centre, Focus and Dicio agencies. The poll results for each party were averaged, with the predicted votes obtained by parties not breaking the five per cent threshold for seats in parliament being redistributed, in line with Slovak political custom, among the parties which the surveys predicted would enter the legislature. Parliament contains 150 seats; 76 are required to form a majority government. The possible coalitions are listed, following discussions with political analysts, in order of likelihood, from the most likely (a right-wing cabinet) to the least (a union between Robert Fico's Smer with Vladimír Mečiar's HZDS). Key: SMK (Hungarian Coalition Party - right-wing, governmental); KDH (Christian Democrats, right-wing, governmental); SDKÚ (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, right-wing, governmental); Ano (Alliance of the New Citizen, right-wing, non-parliamentary); Smer (left-wing, non-parliamentary); HZD (Movement for Democracy, left-wing, non-parliamentary); HZDS (Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, left-wing, opposition).
16. Sep 2002 at 0:00