English speakers have their cup of sorrow and Slovaks their glass of patience, pohár trpezlivosti. Heavy-drinking SNS boss Ján Slota has managed to fill both. After yet another scandal at the SNS-run Environment Ministry, Prime Minister Fico has decided to not only force the resignation of its third minister in a year, but to strip the party of the right to nominate the next one, robbing it of control over one of three ministries it is supposed to run based on the 2006 post-election coalition agreement.
Billions of crowns lost in shady deals cooked by SNS ministers finally started leaving scars on the popularity of Fico’s Smer, which three years ago decided to let the nationalists into government. A recent opinion poll showed that the Smer’s absurdly high popularity rankings, at times reaching the 50 percent mark – unheard of in most multi-party systems – are slowly starting to decline.
It is difficult to feel sorry for Fico. Slota and the SNS were no political rookies, the period of the 1990s when they ran the country together with another current Fico ally, Vladimír Mečiar, is one of the darkest in recent Slovak history – privatization of state property turned into outright looting, the country’s accession into EU and NATO was stopped, the secret service orchestrated the kidnapping of the president’s son, mafia killings were just as routine as violations of constitutional principles by administration officials.
Yet Fico, who in 2006 still had a chance of being perceived at home and abroad as a more-or-less standard though populist politician, decided to let the people responsible for these public obscenities to come to power again. The recent scandals and stealing therefore come as no surprise. They are just what were expected. So nothing can be more ironic than Fico’s attempts to come across as a principled politician trying to fight corruption, cronyism and mismanagement. In 2006 he decided to become not the head of government, but the prince of thieves. And the pohár trpezlivosti was already full.