SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Koalícia

THE BRITISH election has given Slovaks a rare opportunity to feel superior in social evolution. Because if there is one thing local politicians excel at, it’s building coalitions. It’s no wonder – every single of the nine governments Slovakia has had since the fall of communism was a mixture of different, sometimes even antagonistic, parties.

THE BRITISH election has given Slovaks a rare opportunity to feel superior in social evolution. Because if there is one thing local politicians excel at, it’s building coalitions. It’s no wonder – every single of the nine governments Slovakia has had since the fall of communism was a mixture of different, sometimes even antagonistic, parties.

First, in December 1989, there was Milan Čič’s appointed government of “national understanding”, composed of six communists, two representatives of minor parties and nine non-partisans. The first free elections in 1990 brought to power a coalition composed of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), the Democratic Party (DS), the Hungarian Independent Initiative (MNI) and, the largest, Public Against Violence (VPN), at that time headed by Vladimír Mečiar, who became prime minister. In 1991 Mečiar decided to start his own party – the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) – and parliament stripped him of the premiership. The four-member coalition continued under the leadership of KDH boss Ján Čarnogurský. After early elections in 1992 the HZDS gained enough support to form a government with the support of just the Slovak National Party (SNS). With that mandate, Mečiar negotiated the division of Czechoslovakia.

By the spring of 1994 both ruling parties had split, and Jozef Moravčík from the Democratic Union (DÚ), a party formed by HZDS and SNS breakaways, formed an interim administration. It was composed of members of the DÚ, the Democratic Left Party (SDĽ), which was a descendant of the old Communist Party and a forerunner of today’s Smer, and the KDH.

In the autumn of 1994 Mečiar again won parliamentary elections and for the next four years ruled along with the nationalist SNS and the Union of Slovak Workers (ZRS), a far-left party of defectors from the SDĽ.

Then came the two governments of Mikuláš Dzurinda. The first was a coalition of coalitions. It was made-up of the SDĽ, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), the result of the merger of three Hungarian Parties (one liberal, one Christian-democratic, and one nationalist), and the Democratic Coalition Party (SDK) – itself a coalition of four different parties, uniting social democrats, Christians and liberals. By comparison, Dzurinda’s second coalition of his liberal-and-conservative Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Christian Democrats, the Hungarians, and the liberal New Citizen’s Alliance (ANO) seemed an extremely homogenous lot. Finally, in 2006, came the socialist Smer, the nationalist SNS, and the HZDS, by this point transformed into a “people’s party”.

There is an entire vocabulary to describe the working of a coalition – there is the “koaličná zmluva”, a written coalition agreement. There is a “koaličná rada”, the coalition council, a gathering of top coalition leaders. Sometimes it meets once a week, as was the case under Dzurinda II, sometimes barely once a year, as now. “Koaličné rokovania”, the coalition talks after each election, often take weeks. Eventually, “koalícia” itself gains a new meaning – and becomes synonymous with “government”.


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