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Democracy is deteriorating in Slovakia, says IVO

THE QUALITY of democracy in Slovakia is continuing to deteriorate, with cronyism, corruption and misuse of the Hungarian issue remaining the biggest problems after three years of rule by Robert Fico’s government, according to the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) think tank. The findings come from IVO’s latest Barometer survey, evaluating democracy in the second quarter of 2009.

THE QUALITY of democracy in Slovakia is continuing to deteriorate, with cronyism, corruption and misuse of the Hungarian issue remaining the biggest problems after three years of rule by Robert Fico’s government, according to the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) think tank. The findings come from IVO’s latest Barometer survey, evaluating democracy in the second quarter of 2009.

Despite the varying ideologies of the three political parties which comprise the ruling coalition, what they have in common is their devotion to political style, components of which include cronyism, corruption, authoritarianism and majority syndrome, IVO president Grigorij Mesežnikov said at the presentation of the Barometer results, the SITA newswire reported.

Looking at positives, Mesežnikov described as a breakthrough Prime Minister Robert Fico’s admission, speaking on public broadcaster Slovak Radio on July 4, that the head of the coalition Slovak National Party (SNS), Ján Slota, had become rich from his political post. On the other hand, he listed as a negative turning point Fico’s statement the following day (July 5) alleging an irredentist threat from neighbouring Hungary.

“This is something we have not witnessed thus far,” Mesežnikov said, as quoted by SITA.

Prime Minister Fico warned of Hungarian irredentism and described the revised law on state language as protection against it. Irredentism is a position advocating the annexation of territories administered by another state on the grounds of common ethnicity. Mesežnikov said he considered it unfortunate and even irresponsible to speak of the possibility of irredentism in the context of present-day Slovak-Hungarian relations, when both countries are EU and NATO members, SITA wrote.

IVO’s honorary president and a former ambassador to the United States, Martin Bútora, evaluated Slovakia’s foreign policy. He pointed to what he called inconsistency in statements by top constitutional officials. They cited declarations confirming that Slovakia is firmly embedded in the EU and NATO, and is identified with their value orientation, followed by other statements by the prime minister in parliament that the world has four sides and that Slovakia would not continue its orientation towards the USA as it did under the previous government of Mikuláš Dzurinda.

Also questioned were the activities of the courts in the area of defending human rights. Lawyer Mária Kolíková said she believed that Slovak courts should reach decisions much quicker. According to her, court proceedings regarding observation of the right to information take years to resolve. The inactivity of the Constitutional Court regarding a series on laws on expropriation of land near highways she described as alarming.

The lawyer remarked that intimidating letters from former justice minister Štefan Harabin shortly before his election as Supreme Court president did not boost trust in the judicial system.

The speakers said that pressure by the ruling coalition on the media is growing and has already taken the form of decisions which have negatively affected freedom of information, SITA wrote.

The legislative environment is deteriorating as well, according to IVO. The draft bill on broadcasting and retransmission in the form proposed by the Culture Ministry is the toughest ever regulatory interference in the media environment. The State Language Act was also highlighted as a core problem in the IVO democracy report, which argued that this has always been a politically sensitive topic about which there has been no possibility of a professional discussion. According to IVO, the act should be replaced by a new law.

The prime minister reacted to the publication of the Barometer results by saying he leaves the evaluation of democracy to the citizens, “unlike the fourteen democrats from the rightist ideological IVO”, SITA reported. As there is actually a normal situation in Slovakia, people will freely show their opinions in the parliamentary elections due to be held in 2010, just as they did in the elections to the European Parliament, Fico’s spokesperson Silvia Glendová told SITA.

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