EDITORIAL

Naked emperors, pyramids and rotten trees: MPs warm up

THE EMPEROR’S new clothes, a cross on a necklace, a disgrace to a top constitutional post, devastators of the national interest, the age of darkness, a pyramid and a tree with rotten roots: just a few of the metaphors and expressions that emerged during the first serious task that Slovakia’s new class of parliamentary deputies have faced. If this was the overture, one can only guess at the potential “riches” that will flow from their discourse once MPs really stretch their rhetorical wings.

THE EMPEROR’S new clothes, a cross on a necklace, a disgrace to a top constitutional post, devastators of the national interest, the age of darkness, a pyramid and a tree with rotten roots: just a few of the metaphors and expressions that emerged during the first serious task that Slovakia’s new class of parliamentary deputies have faced. If this was the overture, one can only guess at the potential “riches” that will flow from their discourse once MPs really stretch their rhetorical wings.

Yet all of this was no real surprise as all the players worked according to the agreed script: the greenhorns showed up flexing their muscles, the nationalists bemoaned the devastation of national values, and the socialists predicted massive sell-offs of state property. Those who had nothing but emotion to contribute to the debate turned hysterical and the pragmatists, who if one judges based on the quality of the debate are probably in a minority in this parliament, addressed the facts. The greenhorns, socialists, ex-Communists, nationalists, rightists and leftists – or rather those who are pretending to be one or more of the above – will probably go on for many more hours or even days until the ruling coalition deputies finally lift their hands in favour of the programme of the Radičová government and opposition MPs vote against it.

Perhaps, to make sure that the voters understand that parliament is not packed with oldies who don’t know the difference between an iPod and a laptop, some deputies have been busy providing their “Facebook fans” with live broadcasts from the parliament. Given the futility of some speeches, one might be tempted – well, almost – to say it was okay, were it not for the fact that all this was being paid for by taxpayers.

Yet none of the parliamentary histrionics can match those of Supreme Court president Štefan Harabin, who has been stubbornly blocking any Finance Ministry auditors from entering his court to check how state funds have been used.

The ministerial inspectors have tried to check the ministry four times to date but Harabin, who is paid with taxpayers’ money, has simply refused to allow them to do their job. Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš has fined the Supreme Court €33,000, and Harabin personally €1,000. Representatives of the ruling coalition and even the opposition have found some accord and agreed that there is no legitimate reason for Harabin to reject the audit. There is no way he can thus escape the suspicion that something is seriously rotten behind the gates of his castle.

Harabin has suggested that the Supreme Audit Office, which just happens to be led by another nominee from the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the same party that nominated Harabin to the post of justice minister back in 2006, checks his books rather than the Finance Ministry. It seems the Harabin’s games are not on the list of things that really bother Robert Fico, now the leader of the opposition, and it is unlikely that he will give a helping hand to the ruling coalition in trimming Harabin’s powers.

“Is it a kind of internship to become a member of the government?” Fico asked during the debate, referring to Defence Minister Ľubomír Galko, who has promised to demonstrate to Prime Minister Iveta Radičová within a few weeks that he has improved his English language skills. “How will we test him? Shall we establish a committee…?”



Fico suggested that these are issues that reduce the trustworthiness of the things that Radičová has been saying and it seems that these are the types of things that bother Fico more than the fact that his former justice minister, now atop the Supreme Court, is preventing another state institution from doing its job. Harabin is one of those sad legacies that Fico’s era in power has left behind for Radičová.

What kind of opposition politician does Robert Fico promise to be? He does not need to metamorphose into one: his rhetoric and political style has always been closer to that of an opposition politician rather than the country’s most powerful officeholder. Besides, journalists rightly keep reminding Fico of his repeated declaration that he would never sit in parliament as opposition politician. Last year he told TV news channel TA3 that he does not consider it right for someone who has been in power for four or eight years to return to parliament and shout from their parliamentary seat in the way Mikuláš Dzurinda or Ivan Mikloš did.

“It is ridiculous,” Fico said, as quoted by SITA newswire. “One who, after he wraps up his rule and people do not give him their trust a second time, should say ‘thank you very much’ and quit politics. This is my recipe.”

For now, it is obvious that Fico won’t be cooking during the next four years, or even after that, based on the recipes he was happy to give to others but has now decided he need not follow himself.


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