THE MASK of respectability is slipping from the face of the coalition's Christian Democrats (KDH) as the party struggles with the question of the proposed anti-discrimination law.
On the one hand, the leadership in the guise of Pavol Hrušovský tells us that the KDH sees no need for an anti-discrimination law because the constitution already covers the issue. On the other hand, we have a KDH MP Anna Záborská strongly opposing any anti-discrimination law on the grounds that this would allow homosexuals to enter unsuitable professions, such as teaching, where they could corrupt young minds. She would prefer not to have their constitutional right embodied in law.
Both of them have the same aim, and they almost certainly also have the same reasons for their positions, even if Hrušovský is too politically astute to express them.
This problem is faced by all political parties, whose leaders can only show those views of the party that are acceptable to the voting public. The co-ruling Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) can perhaps claim the greatest success in this area, success that looks set to continue as the party has just re-elected Béla Bugár as its leader.
Bugár fights for the rights of the Hungarian minority, but he is also seen as a trustworthy figure. He has shown this by leading the SMK to gain votes from outside the Slovak Hungarian minority.
However, in the shadows behind him lurk such figures as former deputy leader Miklós Duray, who has supported the controversial Hungarian status act passed last year in Hungary, which allows ethnic Hungarians living in surrounding countries to gain various benefits.
Duray described the law as a symbol of new Hungarian national policy and unity, neglecting to consider the inflammatory effects of such comments on his mainly Slovak audience in Slovakia. The SMK was wise enough to replace him at its March 29 congress.
Whilst both parties struggle not to alienate voters, opposition parties like the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and Smer seem to thrive on controversy. Both their leaders, Vladimír Mečiar for HZDS and Smer's Robert Fico (or Malý Mečiar, Little Mečiar, as he is known in some quarters), use their outspoken views to draw in votes and between them their parties command around 40 per cent of Slovak public support.
Perhaps entry to the European Union will see the Slovak political scene move from its difficult adolescence to a more mature adulthood, but the moderates will have to work hard to keep the more extreme voices in their parties from effectively handing power back to Mečiar's cronies, who bled this country dry between 1994 and 1998 and who would probably love the opportunity to do it again.
7. Apr 2003 at 0:00