SLOWAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Spánombohom (video included)

PERHAPS the most unforgettable TV moment in Slovak history came in 1998, when outgoing prime minister Vladimír Mečiar said his goodbye on a public-television talk show. “What should I say at the end? I loved life and I still love it. I lived to the maximum, I worked to the maximum, I gave you it all. So why talk? Come on, let’s sing,” rambled Mečiar with an insane look. And then he sang: “Spánombohom /With gracious God, idem od vás /here I leave you, neublížil som /I have done no harm, neublížil som /I have done no harm, žiadnemu z vás/to any of you.”

Vladimír Mečiar, during his 1998 TV performance.Vladimír Mečiar, during his 1998 TV performance. (Source: TASR)

PERHAPS the most unforgettable TV moment in Slovak history came in 1998, when outgoing prime minister Vladimír Mečiar said his goodbye on a public-television talk show. “What should I say at the end? I loved life and I still love it. I lived to the maximum, I worked to the maximum, I gave you it all. So why talk? Come on, let’s sing,” rambled Mečiar with an insane look. And then he sang: “Spánombohom /With gracious God, idem od vás /here I leave you, neublížil som /I have done no harm, neublížil som /I have done no harm, žiadnemu z vás/to any of you.”

Given that under Mečiar the secret service kidnapped President Michal Kováč’s son, a witness in the case blew up, and state property was massively looted, the song was perhaps not rightly chosen. But the artistic impression was strong nonetheless.

His 1998 defeat in no way meant an end to Mečiar’s career. Since then he has twice run for president, each time making it to the second round, and in 2006 he became part of Robert Fico’s ruling coalition. Mečiar’s definite end has come only now, in 2010. His HZDS party never had any agenda other than bringing Mečiar to power, and never had any appeal other than Mečiar himself. Now that his magic no longer works with the voters, the party and its leader are finished. And a dark period in Slovakia’s history is coming to an end.

Or is it? Mečiar’s voters have not all disappeared. True, many have died. But most just changed their preferences and now vote for Smer. And although Robert Fico will not be able to form a new coalition, he is far from finished. After four years of economic crisis, corruption scandals, and arrogance, Fico gained broader support than in the previous elections and, with 35 percent, is a dominant force in Slovak politics. How is this possible?

Fico was effective at sucking out the voter base of his smaller coalition parties – the HZDS, which failed to reach the 5-percent mark required to make it into parliament, and the SNS, which just barely passed it. He was able to attract these voters because they like what he has to offer – authoritarian manners, anti-Hungarian rhetoric, and socialist propaganda. And there are few signs that demand for this type of politics is waning. Moreover, Fico is supported by many oligarchs who made their fortunes during the wild privatisation of the 1990s and were formerly close to the HZDS.

Mečiar may be saying his final goodbye. But it’ll be a long time before we hear the definitive “spánombohom” of Mečiarism.

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