POLITICAL opponents never miss out on a single chance to fight, overcome, challenge and question their rivals in the political arena. Potentially, even bird watching or the migration of frogs could serve as a reason for political opponents to have a clash of differences. Any event, anniversary, tragedy, success or failure can – in a millisecond – turn into an amphitheatre where the political camps can clash in a bombastic political fight.
There are times, however, when the wall between opposition and coalition should simply collapse and let the parties consider arguments, proposals, suggestions, drafts or concepts for what they really are, and not as a way to kick one’s political opponent.
Times when economic growth has put on the brakes, when business giants which a year ago were ready to conquer new market segments can barely stand on their own feet, when the army of the unemployed swells and layoff is one of the most frequent words in business reports – these are definitely not the right time for a opposition-coalition thug-of-war.
The opposition has been trying to have a special parliamentary session to discuss remedies that the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Christian-Democratic Movement (KDH) and the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) would want to prescribe for the country’s ailing economy.
Yet, the sharpest conflict between the parties appeared to be not over the measures themselves but on whether the parliament should even meet to discuss the opposition’s crisis package. After several still-born attempts, the opposition was thrown a parliamentary session which ended shortly after it started.
The ruling coalition deputies did not even show up. According to the Sme daily, some suggested health problems while some others openly said they thought it was only an obstruction on the part of the ruling coalition.
Any coalition-opposition thug-of-war which does not have substance is the last thing this society, which hungers for signs of stability and some feeble certainty, needs now. Any observer would expect that those who are sitting in their public positions by the will of the electorate would take the time to carefully consider every proposal or suggestion which comes from people who have some experience with managing the economy.
One would expect that proposals are not smashed, slashed, dashed or diced, or simply ignored, just because these come from a political opponent, in the same way one would expect crisis proposals to be born and submitted not simply due to the notoriety of having to oppose something that has been proposed. However, in Slovakia this does not appear to be the case.
Prime Minister Robert Fico blessed that parliamentary session on March 11 with a 45-minute speech in which he basically threw a colourful tapestry of blame on the opposition while the opposition had hoped to have its measures discussed.
He blamed the opposition for what he called “playing political games with the crisis” and conveyed the message that his team is there to make sure no such games will succeed. Fico did not hide his conviction that thirty years of neo-liberalism are the cause of the crisis.
“The same kind we had in Slovakia for eight years,” Fico said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.
Hundreds of economists who have been searching and studying the causes and triggers of the global economic crisis should now sigh with great relief, since the Slovak prime minister has identified the source without any hesitation.
Then Fico said the opposition proposals were a sort of sabotage and that it only faked wanting to discuss any of these proposals.
Could they not have just seriously discussed these proposals and made the public feel that the debate is about the measures themselves and not the political sentiments? No, they could not. It would really require a different political atmosphere in the parliament where the ruling majority now exercises its domination over the opposition. It also would require Fico to ease up on his confrontational style of treating opponents.
In his special parliamentary address Fico did not spare the media either and called on journalists to stop exaggerating and inflating stories about the crisis, thus deepening distrust with their reporting. Yes, some media and journalists might often have a share of blame for beefing up headlines or mixing darker colours to the print palette in order to attract or simply shock readers, but not all the media.
And what indeed is the prime minister doing when he takes the parliamentary floor to pan his opponents in times like these when each day, every good idea and the best solutions are rising in importance?
He is disseminating the very same distrust in the media and about a part of the political spectrum instead of making sure that there is substantial and honest debate about all proposals, even those coming from his opponents.