“ARE WE some camel drivers or what?” asked Ján Slota, the head of the Slovak National Party (SNS), after Prime Minister Robert Fico asked the Slovak president to sever the political head of another SNS minister – after the country’s supreme auditing authority confirmed that the scandalous bulletin-board tender at this SNS-controlled ministry and its subsequent contract with firms said to be close to Slota was legally flawed. Why “camel drivers”? After a certain time, people exposed to Slota’s verbal utterances no longer seek any meaning behind the flock-of-words that spring from his vocal cords.
Over the past couple of days Slota said many other things. He called a former presidential candidate and senior politician an “ugly and disgusting devil’s son” and referred to opponents of his new Patriotism Act as “satanists” and “acidheads”. Slota also opined that he is a straight and honest man and if everyone was like him “then perhaps life would have been different in Slovakia”.
What blessings has the party of this 'honest man' bestowed upon Slovakia? The bulletin-board tender, with its one-bidder contract that allowed millions of euros to be paid without proper documentation, and then the excess emissions quotas sale to the amorphous Interblue Group can certainly top the list of 'gifts' graciously imposed on the nation by SNS. The most recent SNS brainchild – the Patriotism Act – has sent shockwaves across public schools as the law orders headmasters to play the national anthem each Monday morning to every child so as to nurture the seeds of patriotism.
All these come from only a little more than three years of SNS 'gifts' bubbling out of the steaming cauldron of the ruling coalition that Robert Fico formed in 2006.
A recent MVK poll shows that the doors of parliament might soon be slammed shut right under the nose of the SNS since the party’s 4.9-percent preference would put it narrowly below the parliamentary threshold. Pavol Haulík, head of the MVK agency suggested that more frequent criticism by Fico of SNS and Slota’s media silence have eaten into SNS’ popularity, which in February was at 8.7-percent support.
Just like other politicians with fast-sliding popularity, the SNS leaders dismissed the March poll as a product of manipulation. But clearly Slota is now reinvigorating his ‘so-what-if-I-am-vulgar, I-am-still-honest macho image’ and has started his insidious verbal forays into the hearts of voters who might buy it: phony nationalism, phobia of minorities and disgusting yet somehow-appealing vulgarisms.
Meanwhile, the Sme daily reported that the SNS might get a competitor in the bigotry race: Marián Kotleba, the leader of a now-banned extremist party, Pospolitosť, says he aspires to attract more than 5 percent of the national votes – so encouraged is he by the 14,000 votes he garnered last November in the regional elections by fuelling anti-Roma sentiments. Kotleba has now renamed the ‘Party of the Friends of Wine’ to ‘Our Slovakia People’s Party’ and presumably will continue throwing coal on the racist fires still burning in the camps of some voters.
There is a large group of citizens who hope that the SNS will remain outside parliament and then cannibalise itself by meaningless fights between would-be leaders who are suddenly left without the prospect of personal gain – as happened to the SNS after 1998.
Slota should have never made it to power in the first place and though Fico now has been cleaving the necks of the SNS ministers who produced such trashy deals, the prime minister is equally responsible for the decadence spreading in politics. He has legitimised Slota as a ruling politician for four years as he has also done with Vladimír Mečiar and his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS).
Mečiar and Slota should retire from political life said one of every two respondents in a survey conducted by the Polis agency in cooperation with the SITA newswire between February 27 and March 2. More than 54 percent said Mečiar should go, while nearly 50 percent wanted Slota out the door. Slota is far from seeking retirement.
The SNS leadership, in fact, sees nothing wrong with the way they ruled – perhaps only that some of its ministers were cut off from their wells of power at their ministries when it was no longer possible for Fico to justify their actions in the eyes of voters. It is interesting to note that the SNS has put all its sacked ministers, Marian Janušek and Igor Štefanov from the Construction Ministry, plus Ján Chrbet, Jaroslav Izák and Villiam Turský from the Environment Ministry, on its candidate list for 2010.
It could be that this is not because of any failure of serious self-reflection on the part of the SNS: it may honestly believe that this is how the country should be run. But Prime Minister Fico – by not clearly rejecting the SNS as a coalition partner after June 2010 – is silently nodding to that ruling style. Everything else is just propaganda.
15. Mar 2010 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová