Spectator on facebook

Spectator on facebook

THE NEW FICO-ISM

Editorial

“Is another era of anti-Mečiarism beginning?”

“Is another era of anti-Mečiarism beginning?”

This self-pitying question was posed in April by the man himself, three-time PM Vladimír Mečiar. Notwithstanding the irony involved – thus might the burglar complain of people who locked their doors – it’s a question that deserves to be addressed, if only so Mr Mečiar can be persuaded to dry his tears.

By ‘anti-Mečiarism’, this aging autocrat was apparently referring to the wave of public resistance to his rule from 1994 to 1998. On this level, the answer is clear – it has been almost a decade since thousands gathered on Námestie SNP in Bratislava to chant “dost bol Mečiara!” Whatever people now think of the ‘father of Slovakia’ and his return to feeding at the public trough, they do it in private.

But that doesn’t mean the former furnace stoker can rest easy. Anti-Mečiarism may be dead or dormant, but Mečiarism, the cause of those massive public protests, is making something of a comeback under the present government.

Commentator Márian Leško defined Mečiarism in 1996 as based on four pillars: an unusual ability to believe one’s own lies, the production of senseless conflicts, a progressive loss of inhibitions, and a leader who is the head of his own cult. On at least two of these criteria, the Fico government resembles the 1990s Mečiar administration. For example, Fico’s ‘war’ with the media is being waged almost single-handedly by the pugnacious prime minister, occasionally aided by coalition colleague Ján Slota’s drivel about intellectual “scum” and Mečiar’s whining about bias. The government’s campaign against the second pension pillar and private health care companies has been equally aggressive, suggesting anything but a readiness to compromise. And the ruling coalition’s capture of the state administration has carried political conflict and confrontation into the lowliest district offices.

Halfway through the government’s term, signs are also appearing that the prime minister is losing what few inhibitions he had when he took office. His description of OSCE representative Miklós Haraszti as “some third-rate bureaucrat” recalls the language of the Mečiar government, which dismissed striking actors as “third-rate artists”, and disparaged then-US ambassador Ralph Johnson as a kind of diplomat “that we have any number of”. Ditto Fico’s claim that Alan Baldeyrou, the head of Peugeot in Slovakia – “a man whose name I can’t even pronounce” – was a “dirty and outrageous” liar. And the openness with which tenders are being fixed, state contracts awarded to friends, and courts stacked with sympathetic justices is truly startling.

There are many differences between the new ‘Fico-ism’ and standard Mečiarism, not least the absence of babky-demokratky and other cult trappings. But perhaps the biggest change is that politicians no longer even pretend to believe their own lies. As with Mečiar, lies remain the modus operandi, but Fico seems to have bet – and won – that people are either too weary, too cynical or too content to care.

Top stories

How did Communism happen in Czechoslovakia?

For the 40 years, Czechs and Slovaks would celebrate February 25 as Victorious February, even though the enthusiasm of most of those who supported Communists in 1948 would very quickly evaporate.

Prime Minister Klement Gottwald (right) swears an oath into the hands of President Edvard Benes on February 27, 1948 at the Prague Castle.

Cemetery with a remarkable creative concept Photo

The shapes of tombstones were prescribed until 1997

Vrakuňa Cemetery in Bratislava

Historian: After 1948, Czechoslovakia was paralysed with fear

On February 25, Czechs and Slovaks mark 70 years since the rise of Communism in their common state. Historian Jan Pešek talks about the coup and its aftermath.

Demonstration in Prague, Wenceslas' Square, on February 28, 1948.

Blog: Foreigners, get involved

What about making our voices heard? And not only in itsy-bitsy interviews about traditional cuisine and the High Tatras.

Regional election 2017