MY, MORE, most, plot, pot – meaning “we”, “sea”, “bridge”, “fence”, and “sweat” respectively – are just some of the words that Slovak and English share. Elections for the European Parliament (EP) are similar. In Slovakia, they take place at the same time as in other European countries and people pick their representatives for the same institution. But when compared to England, France, or Germany, the event has a much different political meaning – here it means nothing at all. In 2004, just weeks after the country entered the union, voter turnout barely reached 17 percent. This time around, the number is likely to be even lower – Slovak MEPs have been invisible for the last five years, and no one in Slovakia, like hardly anyone on the entire continent, really has a clue what the EP is good for. Add to that an incredibly dull local campaign, and the country is headed to break new European records of voter indifference.
One of the most exciting events of the Slovak EP campaign has been the story of My. Not of “I and the rest of a group that involves me”, but of the regional weekly with that name.
SNS candidate Vladimír Čečot, who at first tried to win the hearts and minds of nationalist voters with his retro tune “Homeland”, didn’t hesitate to steal the My logo and use it on his billboard slogan claiming that “We vote for him”.
In a country where newspaper endorsements don’t exist, the sign must have surprised voters, even more so given the fact that in SNS’s home region of Žilina the newspaper has fiercely fought the party’s cronyism and abuse of power. SNS failed to explain or apologise for stealing the logo, proving once again its deep respect for private ownership and the rule of law.
Other interesting moments of the campaign include the response of former foreign minister Eduard Kukan of the SDKÚ, who when asked how he would vote on registered same-sex partnerships or the pope’s statements about the dangers of condom use replied: “Ask me once I’m elected.” It’s refreshing to see a politician trying to turn around the traditional concept of political representation – candidates should no longer answer voters’ questions in order to be elected. Voters must elect them first in order to gain the privilege of learning their opinions.
Then there is the SAS. No, not the regiment of British Rambos or the Scandinavian airline. And no, not the American provider of business software. It’s the new Slovak right-wing party. Its top candidate Ján Oravec surprised even radical liberals by claiming that abortions should be allowed in all stages of pregnancy. Even in the eighth month. Additional explaining and unusually harsh criticism by party boss Sulík did little to change the bad first impression.
As long as the EP remains a second-rate institution with few competencies, there is little hope for improvement in voter turnout or the quality of candidates. And changing the EP into a truly relevant political player requires that all countries have a common understanding of the continent’s future. My, oh my.
8. Jun 2009 at 0:00 | Lukáš FiIa