Mať na saláme

“I HAVE IT on the sausage!” An Italian restaurant or an ‘erotic massage parlour’ are perhaps the only places where a foreigner might expect to hear a phrase which Slovaks in fact use regularly to express states of complete apathy and disregard. “Mať na saláme” is to “not give a damn”. The boss of the nationalist SNS party, Ján Slota, is perhaps the country’s most prominent “sausager”.

“I HAVE IT on the sausage!” An Italian restaurant or an ‘erotic massage parlour’ are perhaps the only places where a foreigner might expect to hear a phrase which Slovaks in fact use regularly to express states of complete apathy and disregard. “Mať na saláme” is to “not give a damn”. The boss of the nationalist SNS party, Ján Slota, is perhaps the country’s most prominent “sausager”.

Slota is currently facing several challenges, any of which would cause a regular politician not only to lose sleep, but also end his political career. Two out of the SNS’s three cabinet members have had to leave their posts in recent weeks – construction minister Janušek because of a tender worth billions of crowns which he announced only via a ministerial bulletin board and which was won by firms close to Slota; and the environment minister because of a suspiciously cheap sale of hot air, in which the country likely lost hundreds of millions of crowns.

Finding a replacement for the first minister was simple – Slota just nominated Janušek’s subordinate Štefanov, who masterminded the entire bulletin-board deal and approved the absurdly overpriced invoices that resulted from the tender. But finding a third environment minister in three years seems a tougher task.

“It takes some guts to take the job,” said Education Minister Ján Mikolaj, the only SNS cabinet member to last since 2006. How is Slota dealing with the situation? He left for his holiday home in Croatia and is not answering phones. In addition to the constant criticism of Štefanov and the environment ministry vacancy, Prime Minister Robert Fico has now ousted Slota’s man Peter Hajaš, who headed the state investment agency SARIO, without any apparent reason. When asked whether he has talked to Slota about his firing, a week after it occured, Hajaš replied: “Not yet.”

Paris Hilton, Jay Leno, Donald Trump, and Ján Slota are among the few people on earth who drive the Mercedes SLR McLaren. Unlike his homes, choppers, planes, and other property, which are officially owned by various firms and associates, the new car is registered to Slota’s son. This can be seen almost as a move towards greater transparency. Or greater arrogance.

Slota has never felt any need to explain the source of his enormous wealth and isn’t answering any questions this time around either.

How can he get away with it? Fico, who otherwise likes to posture as an advocate of transparency, just doesn’t seem to care. And for a long time, neither did the voters. However, recent polls show the SNS is dramatically losing support, which is down to around 7 percent from the 13 percent it enjoyed just months ago. Perhaps a few anti-Hungarian slurs will do the trick. Or perhaps the voters have lost their sausages.

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