THE COLISEUM of politics has opened its gates in Slovakia, inviting the public to hear all the promises that politicians always offer but rarely keep. Dim-witted jokes served by male entertainers dressed in female clothes; a huge green truck threatening to roll into 500 municipalities; a Christian Democrat ringing random doorbells, seeking someone to invite him into the living room for a brief political discourse; or a party dispatching mails addressing those who open them as celebrities: all these are images from Slovakia’s pre-election Coliseum spectacle.
Slovaks can definitely expect some more serious campaign travesties to come this year but today’s parties will find it hard to beat the notorious 1998 campaign antics thrown by the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia’s Vladimír Mečiar: the HZDS boss invited German supermodel Claudia Schiffer to open a section of highway and brought French actor Gerard Depardieu to a HZDS event attended by his truest supporters, older ladies.
There was also an expedition to Mount Everest that brought the HZDS party flag to the top of the world’s highest mountain. Mečiar was at the peak of his strength and so was confident about winning the race.
His party’s billboard featured the slogan “Country of Your Heart” but its creators, in fact, used an image from the Swiss countryside. In their effort to achieve perfect imagery, the creators unintentionally captured the essence of Mečiar’s rule: caring next to nothing about transparency.
Now, in 2010, Mečiar is, albeit slowly, heading into political oblivion. This time, it is Robert Fico who is confident about getting another ticket for a four-year ride in the cabinet. Fico won’t invite German supermodels or French actors – if he is to opt for some foreign entertainers he would be more likely to choose the Russian male chorus Alexandrovci.
Besides, if such hard-core scandals as the murky, terribly disadvantageous sale of Slovakia’s emissions quotas to an unknown US firm, or the government’s social companies being suspected of fraud and illegal state aid, or the infamous bulletin-board tender have not repelled many Slovaks from wanting to have Smer lead the country again, the party surely knows there is no need to invest in celebrities to get out its vote. Smer has Fico, and he probably knows best what his supporters want to hear.
And Fico will be promising all of that to people again. And he will tell it to them in a very simple and understandable way, while his speeches will be followed by cheap comedians dressed in female clothes showering the public with dim-witted jokes.
Detailed party programmes are not really for the masses: these are mostly for political analysts and journalists, who then deconstruct them and earn scorn from the politicians who blast the journalists by saying that they are kicking for their political opponents.
In the coming weeks the Slovak National Party will surely try to persuade Slovaks that with the victory of Viktor Orbán in Hungary a serious threat is raising its head south of the Danube and it is only Ján Slota who can recognise it clearly and deal best with the menace.
The deputy chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Daniel Lipšic, is accepting invitations from anyone who wants to have a chat with him in their living room.
Even if Lipšic goes from house to house for 24 hours a day for two months, he is unlikely to lure hundreds of thousands of people to vote for KDH – but his party believes that people will pass on stories about having met Lipšic.
The Slovak Christian and Democratic Union (SDKÚ) recently invited celebrities, actors and businessmen to a rally: their role there, however, was not be ready to persuade the masses that the SDKÚ is the guarantor of change for the better, but rather to be convinced themselves to support the party. Yes, it is a natural instinct of a party to talk to those whom it assumes are among its voter base.
So even if Slovakia’s political Coliseum is now offering much entertainment for the masses and the politicians do appear jollier and more entertaining, one would like to believe that voters do care about more than money and social subsidies and that the winner won’t be the one who throws the silliest show.
One would like to believe that political scandals and wasted public funds do take a toll on those politicos who did not prevent greedy cronies from taking their big bites. And also that people very often deserve much better governments than the ones they have elected.
19. Apr 2010 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová