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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Skrat

DID YOU just have a short circuit? In Slovak, this term encompasses not only personal vehicles, garden gear, and home appliances. It stretches out to the realms of psychology. And sometimes politics.

DID YOU just have a short circuit? In Slovak, this term encompasses not only personal vehicles, garden gear, and home appliances. It stretches out to the realms of psychology. And sometimes politics.

“An undesired connection of two mutually exclusive thoughts,” is the non-electrical definition of “skrat”. To put it more simply – if suddenly you do something really stupid, which contradicts everything you normally believe, you have had a skrat. If a picture dictionary is ever assembled, the perfect illustration of this particular meaning will be a picture of Iveta Radičová casting a parliamentary vote for a colleague.

At the start of this week, the former presidential candidate was at the top of her political career. She did not defeat Ivan Gašparovič in the April election, but with her million votes she achieved a decent result.

A “new face” in politics, she made a rocket career built mainly on voters’ disgust with representatives of the opposition combined with the same promises repeated by most political newcomers – more cooperation, less political hassling, and more decency in politics. She was believable – she had the professional background of a sociology professor, the moral credit of a fighter against communism and the autocratic Vladimír Mečiar, plus the aura of being the widow of Stano Radič, one of the country’s best-liked comedians, whose political satire did much to end Mečiar’s rule. The SDKÚ brought her into politics some four years ago – first taking her into government as an independent minister for social affairs, and turning her into party vice-chairman after the lost 2006 elections. Since then, her position had been gradually improving.

Until the night of April 21, when during one of the legislature’s insignificant votes Radičová pushed the parliamentary button not once, but twice; the second time for a colleague who could not reach the device on time. The party’s explanation? It was a “skrat”.

The constitutional principle that each MP must vote personally is non-negotiable in Slovakia. Moreover, the law governing the work of parliament explicitly prohibits one MP from voting for another. If Radičová stayed in parliament and the opposition ever again tried to remove a government member for breaches of law, and the possible instances are many, the coalition’s reply would be too simple: What right do you have to criticize, when your own MPs have no regard for the law? This stigma also disqualified her from becoming the opposition leader.

Radičová had two choices – to end her presence in parliament or to end her political career altogether, although at a slower pace. She made the right choice. Nonetheless, her skrat took her a long way from the hopes she had just a week ago.

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