SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Mať hokej

“IF THERE was a Stanley Cup for local politics, I’d give it to Braňo Celler,” said hockey star Marián Hossa about the mayor of Trenčín. At least, that’s what Celler’s campaign website claims. “We have a good leader, and we should stick to that,” reads an alleged quote by Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chára on the incumbent’s site. Both players have denied supporting Celler.

“IF THERE was a Stanley Cup for local politics, I’d give it to Braňo Celler,” said hockey star Marián Hossa about the mayor of Trenčín. At least, that’s what Celler’s campaign website claims. “We have a good leader, and we should stick to that,” reads an alleged quote by Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chára on the incumbent’s site. Both players have denied supporting Celler.

The case helps illustrate why it’s easy for voters to “have hockey” (mať hokej) in local politics. The phrase is used to describe any type of confusion, or uncertainty (although in the case of Trenčín it does have a literal meaning).

The pre-election chaos is created mostly by crazy coalitions, wild abuse of local media run by municipalities, and the fact that thousands of candidates come up with their own creative PR projects. Like Ján Babič from Rožňava, who borrowed the idea of a talking dog from the campaign of a Czech mayor from Brno. Without asking permission. Or the mayor of Dubnica, suspected of turning off the local radio station so that it can’t play the ads of his competitors.

But the campaign “hockey” is also aided by election legislation.

Slovakia has five types of elections – municipal, regional, parliamentary, presidential, and European. And there is a different law to govern each of them. Some are very liberal – political ads can run until the very start of parliamentary elections, and the word “campaign” is hardly mentioned in the law.

Some on the other hand, are rather harsh – in the case of municipal elections all campaigning must stop 48 hours in advance of the voting, and opinion polls can’t be published for a week before the elections. The result of these strict rules? Ignorance.

The country remains covered with election billboards long after voting is over. Candidates appear at press conferences to the last day, although they pretend these have nothing to do with their campaigns. Fliers fly freely around the country.

The government has promised to unify all legislation. It had better start as soon as possible. Perhaps 2011 can go down in the history books not only as the year when Slovakia hosted the Hockey World Cup, but also the year when it finally got some decent voting rules.


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