OVER the past week, journalists have been writing and rewriting their cover-page stories. The political mood over the possibility of early elections has been changing with every new statement. Journalists are seeking the right word to describe what has been happening on the Slovak political stage. The best expression is, probably, melodrama.
Meanwhile the parliament, after initial problems convening after the summer recess, now seems prepared to function normally. On September 27, deputies even revised the constitution, with 111 MPs voting for more powers for the Supreme Audit Office.
It almost sounds like good news for a public that is weary of the whole early election discussion, which exploded after the dismissal of former Economy Minister Pavol Rusko and the departure of his party, the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO), from the ruling coalition in mid August.
In fact, people have already lost track of which parties want early elections, which ones want the Mikuláš Dzurinda government to complete its electoral term, and which ones want neither of these options.
The core of the problem is that the parties themselves do not have a clear concept of how to proceed and political principles are the very last thing to serve as a guideline. Probably, the most carefully considered factor in all of this is how party voters would likely respond to this or that move, which results in a chaotic sort of politics.
The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has confounded the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) by suggesting that party leader Vladimír Mečiar is ready to support early elections at any date, a move that elevates the debate to a different level. Previously the ruling parties claiming to support early elections said they could not agree on when to hold early elections.
Now that the HZDS is open to any date, the SMK is saying that early elections are no longer an option. The Hungarians were apparently ready to support the idea as long as the rest of the ruling coalition did, too. Predictably, certain ruling coalition parties, such as Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), will not suffer early elections at any price.
About two weeks ago, the Hungarians said they disliked the way some MPs sold their metaphoric deputy soul to support Dzurinda's cabinet and suggested that such a move would not be sustainable.
The KDH called for early elections in an even stronger voice, claiming it was the only decent way out of a political mess. Now the party is back pedalling, however, saying its hands are tied by a ruling coalition agreement that forbids it from uniting with the opposition against the SDKÚ and the group surrounding Ľubomír Lintner, who leads the breakaway ANO faction that turned against Rusko.
However, a couple of days ago, the KDH said that it would be ready to quit the ruling coalition if it was certain that doing so would be in the best interest of Slovak citizens.
Politicians are proving once again that either their memory is strictly short-term or banking on their hope that the public's memory will fail to recall all the variations of statements and standpoints delivered over the past month.
If it is the latter, they are right to gamble. Except for some political analysts, voters seem to forget all the various contradictory statements. But then, even if the exact promises are not remembered, one expects that the bad taste of disappointment that this melodrama leaves behind will linger.
Each melodrama lowers the voters' trust in politics. People will continue to treat political statements like the valueless, verbal contributions of mutes in a play, figures whose strings are pulled behind the curtain where the public is not given a peek.
Politicians are close to devaluing the term "early elections" completely by overusing it and turning the whole debate into a farce when in reality, "early elections" are a strong and a legitimate tool for solving a political situation that no longer reflects the voters' will.
The whole early election melodrama has given Smer boss Robert Fico a stage to strut on, pumping up his popularity among voters who appreciate populist rhetoric. Slovak National Party (SNS) boss Ján Slota, whose party would probably have benefited from early elections, did not fail to add to the farce either.
At the time when the SMK were supportive of early elections, Slota sent a statement to the media that the Hungarians were the only "real men" in the government. After the SMK said they no longer supported early elections, Slota rushed to withdraw his praise, indicating that the Hungarians had behaved just like "typical Hungarians" whose word could never be taken seriously.
The opposition is already getting busy planning the dismissal of Jirko Malchárek as economy minister before he is even sworn in as Rusko's replacement. The opposition has been trying to sack almost every member of the Dzurinda cabinet knowing as they do that they just might lack the necessary number of votes.
But it shows that the opposition's raison d'etre is to use any chance it gets and every tool at its disposal to make the ruling coalition's life bitter. The sad thing is that not only the ruling coalition will have to witness the melodrama unfold.
By Beata Balogová
3. Oct 2005 at 0:00