THERE is no definite answer to the question of whether nations deserve the governments they choose in national elections. Nevertheless, there is a certain archetype of leader that no nation deserves, regardless of the historical lessons it needs to learn, or the historical debts it has to settle by surviving under the rule of autocrats.
In the western tradition, newspapers sometimes endorse politicians ahead of an election, or offer direction to voters so that they do not get lost in the labyrinth of easy solutions and abundance of promises that parties rain down on voters.
Readers will search in vain for endorsements of parties or politicians on the pages of this newspaper. Instead we offer a plea to the Slovak voter: please do not vote for leaders who have brazenly traded high state posts and spots on their party candidate list in return for cash to finance lavish campaigns.
Please deny your vote to leaders who helped politicians with heavy undemocratic baggage sneak – or, in some cases, march boldly – back into power. Do not give succour to those who give lucrative state orders to friends and family with nary a blush.
No nation deserves leaders who use every chance to make the hearts of semi-militant extremist groups beat faster with every statement they direct against minorities. Slovaks deserve something better than parties who wage racist billboard campaigns and abuse state institutions and public money to campaign for their re-election.
Robert Fico has ruled Slovakia for the past four years since voters gave him a full cup to quench his thirst for power at the 2006 election.
What would be on a list of items included in an imaginary political museum that his Smer party, along with its Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and Slovak National Party (SNS) partners, might leave behind for the nation to remember?
The most important exhibits would include: the dubious sale of excess emissions quotas at well below the market price, an affair that grew into an international scandal along with the ‘phenomenal’ Interblue Group, a name which will long resonate with anyone studying cases of suspected state corruption; a post-modern collection of ministerial heads that rolled after cronyism, corruption or abuse of power could no longer be obscured by bold talk in press conferences; a Supreme Court president who ascended to his perch despite massive protests by political ethics watchdogs and carried with him the suspicion of having abused disciplinary proceedings to target certain judges.
The museum would also feature a vivid collection of libel suits launched against media outlets, with hefty damage awards at stake.
Then there would be an extravagant collection of outrageous tenders across all sectors and involving a wide range of failings: for example, the famous bulletin-board tender ‘masterminded’ by the SNS-controlled Construction Ministry, which was awarded to firms believed to be close to SNS boss Ján Slota; not to mention the murky transfer of valuable land under the High Tatras to a company reportedly close to another coalition partner, HZDS boss Vladimír Mečiar.
Yet we have not even started to name the pieces of legislation that the Fico government has produced and some of the impacts these laws have had: perhaps a single reference, to the rebarbative Press Code, will suffice.
It is hard to say how many voters will have in mind at least part of this roll-call of scandalous incidents as they make their final choice before despositing their marked up ballot with the election officials.
The campaign PR machines have already digested bucketfuls of money and it is unclear how much of the cash spent will actually appear in the financial accounts of the political parties. Not even the heavy rainfall which hit Slovakia in early June and washed away people’s homes, can match the flood of promises, images and declarations targeted at people from all possible channels.
While the damage caused by the flooding is serious, and it will take many months for the affected families to repair their houses and replant their devastated gardens, political choices can cause much greater harm, with consequences more far-reaching than a collapsed roof or a swept-away vegetable patch.
Politicians like Slota, Mečiar and Fico, and more importantly the ruling style they have inflicted on Slovakia, will not just seep away like the dirty flood water that has invaded people’s homes.
They will try to cling to power – and all the privileges they have been able to accumulate thanks to people’s votes – until the door to parliament is slammed in their faces.
Hopefully, that part of the nation which believes it deserves a better government will do the slamming.
7. Jun 2010 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová