Re: US political aid in Slovakia: Refereeing or playing?, Editorial, Vol 8, no 44, Nov 18 to 24
The September elections indeed "produced the best result possible". The "homogenous coalition of pro-Western, reformist parties, and the rejection of authoritarian and populist political alternatives" rendered Slovakia with probably the most stable government in the region.
There exists a general understanding of what is good and what is bad in Slovakia. An outlook to future rooted deeply in this basic value propositions was produced last week as the new government manifesto passed the parliament. Slovakia is set to join Nato and the EU, adheres strictly to principles of liberal democracy and runs a free market economy.
The above would not necessarily have been the case if the Slovaks had voted in favor of the authoritarian (Vladimír Mečiar's HZDS) and populist (Robert Fico's Smer) alternatives. Another Mečiar government would have meant a stop to the integration ambitions (ie a rejection from outside) and a return to the pre-1998 regime (ie an erosion of democracy and free economy inside the state).
I publicly expressed my concern about the election result on a few occasions this summer. I described the elections as a test of maturity of the Slovak electorate. I described those particular voters as politically immature and unqualified on large part, and argued external forces were welcome and necessary to ensure that positive outcome I appreciated at the beginning.
Thus if you speak about "one country interfering in another's political life", I advise you praise it in this particular case.
When speaking about Slovak politics you need to be aware of the specific context in which you are working. You are dealing with a country that had been eroded by a communist totalitarian regime for almost 50 years. For nearly 10 years preceding, it had been eroded by a fascist totalitarian regime. From this the Slovaks emerged morally impoverished, politically disoriented and economically illiterate on large part. In 1989, just like the other post-communist countries, Slovakia could not stand as an equal partner with Western democracies. In 1998, unlike many post-communist countries, Slovakia still wasn't democratic. Since 1998, Slovakia has systematically been brought up to the standards of liberal democracy; the country had to be taught rather than left to learn on its own. The September elections were to evaluate the results of these efforts. For this matter, it was important that all parties to this activity would not stop short of completing the thorny task they picked up.
Your concern that the election result in Slovakia was in the foreign policy interest of the US is of course justified. However, the foreign policy benefits are the risk premium the US will yield as it chose to interfere rather than stand aside.
I do appreciate your attempt at producing balanced journalism. However, I advise that The Slovak Spectator keeps backing the parties of the current coalition for another term and argues clearly against the return of Mečiar. The threats are still credible and we all should avoid being overly optimistic. Only when the establishment around Mečiar disintegrates and we will see that man retire, and when a modern social-democratic body replaces the populist Smer on the left wing, only then can you give up steering the Slovak political life and assume the standard role of media in every ripe democracy.
Let me conclude with two remarks:
1. The word "democracy" as it is generally used around the world describes the kind of political establishment you can observe in most Western countries. It is a disturbed projection of the dogmatic definition you know from the books; it is imperfect, but it works. Churchill offers probably the best argument against the democracy that you preach for: "a five-minute conversation with the average voter". Thus it was right that Slovaks were not allowed to choose Mečiar without hindrance - even though the "average voter" might have wanted him - because of the consequences.
2. Maybe The Slovak Spectator could see some of the US taxpayer dollars if it does not keep publicly pronouncing the US ambassador reluctant to account for his own past behavior.
With best regards,
2. Dec 2002 at 0:00