SLOVAK lessons 1 through 10,000 probably don’t include the word ‘povýšenectvo’ – it’s a little difficult to translate and impossible to pronounce. More than simple ‘arrogance’ or ‘haughtiness’, it’s derived from ‘výška’, height, making it explicit that it is typical of those who stand higher on the social ladder.
During the past week, Slovakia has had the chance to witness this trait in two men – one from whom you’d expect nothing else, and one from whom you’d expect anything but povýšenectvo.
Unsuccessful presidential candidate František Mikloško, a veteran of the political scene, has thus far been known as a humble and reasonable man. A dissident and co-organiser of the anti-communist “candle demonstration” of the faithful in March 1988, which the totalitarian police ended with a violent raid, he never sought revenge against his oppressors. After the Velvet Revolution he requested a presidential pardon for the officer who imprisoned him, and even attended the funeral of the last communist president, Gustáv Husák. In the 1990s Mikloško was again at the forefront of the fight for freedom, struggling along with his fellow Christian Democrats to oust the authoritarian Vladimír Mečiar from power and return Slovakia to the path to NATO and EU membership.
That is why it came as a shock to many that following the first round of presidential elections, which left the ex-communist - and Mečiar’s former deputy - Ivan Gašparovič vying for the top post with the opposition’s Iveta Radičová, he not only failed to endorse her, but said he would ignore the second round altogether. Why? Radičová is supposedly too liberal.
The clash of conservativism and liberalism is legitimate in countries where politics is about ideology, not about preventing crooks from running the country. Slovakia is not there yet. Mikloško must be aware of the fact, but chose to ignore it, probably just to find support for his newly founded conservative party. And putting political gain over responsibility towards the country smells of povýšenectvo.
The other example came from Prime Minister Robert Fico, who is an expert in the field. In the past, the premier has intimidated financial investors by showing private footage from their Christmas party, publicly presented false evidence against a student he needed to make seem guilty of beating herself up, and called journalists idiots and prostitutes. It therefore came as little surprise when this week he not only didn’t stop to talk to an lone elderly protester who attended one of his public events, but in front of the cameras accused him of being a provocateur paid for by the Radičová campaign. Gašparovič was standing by his side at the time, with a bewildered smile. Fico later apologised for making the accusation. But when deciding what to do in presidential or parliamentary elections, Slovak voters should keep in mind the povýšenectvo of politicians. And teach them a lesson.