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EDITORIAL

Slovakia says goodbye to the Fico-Slota-Mečiar ruling style

SLOVAK National Party (SNS) chief Ján Slota said that the exit-poll results from the parliamentary elections made him want to cry. The leader of a party which over the past four years has been the subject of repeated suspicions of corruption and cronyism added that the country would cry bloody tears, and held out the prospect of Hungarian dominance and political autonomy for Hungarians in Slovakia. The SNS only narrowly cleared the 5-percent threshold necessary to make it into parliament.

SLOVAK National Party (SNS) chief Ján Slota said that the exit-poll results from the parliamentary elections made him want to cry. The leader of a party which over the past four years has been the subject of repeated suspicions of corruption and cronyism added that the country would cry bloody tears, and held out the prospect of Hungarian dominance and political autonomy for Hungarians in Slovakia. The SNS only narrowly cleared the 5-percent threshold necessary to make it into parliament.

Unlike Slota, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) boss Vladimír Mečiar avoided melodrama on election night. He chose instead to lick his wounds out of sight of the media after it became obvious that his party had been unceremoniously dumped from parliament.

The fall of the HZDS was somewhat predictable: it became clear some time ago that the party had got to the point where it was no longer able to function without Mečiar at its helm but, also, that as long as Mečiar held the HZDS in his grip his presence only served to dig the party’s long-term grave.

Mečiar’s final “service” to Slovak politics is to deprive Fico of a ruling coalition partner and thus possibly clear the way for a centre-right coalition to emerge. In this sense, Slota will not be able to render much assistance to Fico either.

The circle seems to be closing. Fico resuscitated Mečiar and Slota four years ago with the prospect of having a “glorious four years” without any of the parties which had made up the previous ruling coalition. But now they have failed him, since the majority of Slovaks have said a clear no to everything the SNS and HZDS stand for. Fico made an effort to appear upbeat; he called Smer’s election performance, at almost 35 percent, a result his party had not even dreamed of given the economic crisis and the tough conditions during which he had ruled. But he failed to convince anyone.

By contrast, his rival, Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) election leader Iveta Radičová, was able to open her party’s Sunday morning press conference with the words “Good morning Slovakia; change is within reach”, after her party picked up 15.4 percent of the votes. Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) got 12.14 percent; the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) picked up 8.52 percent; and Most-Híd got 8.12 percent of the vote. The leaders of these parties on June 13 repeated their individual refusals to negotiate with Smer boss Fico. Sooner or later he will have to give up trying to form a government with non-existent partners.

There are never any guarantees in politics, but if Slovakia gets a government without all the Slotas, Mečiars and Ficos there is at least a hope that the country will not be blessed by legislation such as the controversial Press Code, which has badly affected media freedom in Slovakia. And there is some prospect that the country will not see its state hot air quotas sold at a fraction of their market price to an amorphous firm with links to one of the ruling parties, as was the case with the infamous Interblue sale.

Unfortunately, the departing HZDS won’t take Štefan Harabin, the president of the Supreme Court, with it into political oblivion, even though it was Mečiar’s party which brought him back to power as justice minister. Fico did not protest, despite knowing what baggage Harabin was hauling along behind him. If no one else could, then Harabin’s critics in the judiciary, who have been subjected to disciplinary proceedings for all sorts of failings for which other judges have not even been admonished, might explain to Fico why it wasn’t right to give the HZDS a free reign in the justice department.

Ethnic Hungarians might also have a word or two’s advice to Fico on why it wasn’t a particularly friendly gesture towards minorities to manufacture a state language law with Slota peeking over his shoulder and spicing up the process with odious rhetoric. Ethnic Hungarians in fact said a pretty strong “no” to the radicalisation of the political scene by closing the door of parliament to the Hungarian Coalition Party and the policies that leader Pál Csáky and key ally Miklós Duray represent. It turns out that Slovakia’s Hungarians do want to live here in Slovakia; they want to use their mother tongue without facing fines or scorn from fellow citizens; and, no, they do not plan to apply in large numbers for Hungarian citizenship.

Election results are sometimes confusing and often it is difficult to interpret the mood of the voters, or their motivation for voting for one party before another. However, the 2010 parliamentary elections have given a couple of unambiguous answers to the HZDS, the SNS and the SMK – but most importantly to Fico. If he chooses not to listen, there is now the clear example of the HZDS to remind him of what happens to parties and leaders who do not learn from events.


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