JUST last week this column pointed out that ‘most’ is one of the words that English and Slovak share. The word meaning “greatest in quantity, extent, or degree” in one language and “bridge” in the other has in the last couple of days made an unexpected career switch and found its greatest number of users among native speakers of Hungarian. The decision of former Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) chair Béla Bugár to form a new party named Most-Híd will certainly change the Slovak political landscape. But what exactly will ‘most’ mean in the Hungarian community?
Bridges such as the one Bugár has decided to build often lead to oblivion. Ivan Šimko left the SDKÚ in 2004 to start the Free Forum only to leave it a couple of weeks later when party members felt free to not elect him as their boss. He then started yet another party, Mission 21, which no longer even appears in opinion polls. Ján Slota at one point left the Slovak National Party to form the Real Slovak National Party. He made his return to top politics only after the parties reunited.
Vladimír Palko and other extreme conservatives left the KDH and formed the KDS, which currently has no chance of making it into parliament in 2010. There were several groups that at different times left Vladimír Mečiar’s HZDS and formed new parties. In all these cases the departure from an established party was shortly followed by a departure from politics.
There are three important exceptions to the rule. One is Mikuláš Dzurinda, who after the 1998 elections decided to leave the KDH and successfully turned an artificial election coalition, called the SDK, intended to help four anti-Mečiar parties circumvent tough election legislation, into a regular party, the SDKÚ. Another is Robert Fico, who in 1999 left the left-wing SDĽ to form Smer, the party which now has hegemony over left-wing politics. And the last is Ivan Gašparovič, who after leaving HZDS in 2002 formed the HZD. His new party had no success, but the man is now president. Given the fact that the head of state, the head of the government, and the head of the opposition all share a similar story is telling.
And while there are two options open to the renegade Bugár, there is only one for his old party, the SMK. It will suffer. After its split, SNS did not make it into parliament. After each break-up the HZDS lost a couple of percentage points at the polls and Mečiar lost the 2004 presidential election to Gašparovič. The SDĽ was eventually taken over by Smer and ceased to exist. Dzurinda lost the 2006 elections and was forced into opposition. The SMK may suffer a fatal blow. That is if Bugár manages to get the most out of his bridge.