Just a political railway station

IT PROBABLY would be easier to define the type of person who does not fall for the enticements of politics than those who do get attracted to the political domain that is simultaneously fickle and stubborn, cruel and kind, greedy and munificent.

IT PROBABLY would be easier to define the type of person who does not fall for the enticements of politics than those who do get attracted to the political domain that is simultaneously fickle and stubborn, cruel and kind, greedy and munificent.

In 2010, on the backs of novice parties as well as veteran organisations, all kinds of people rushed into politics: nerdy theoreticians with a passion for citing textbook solutions; eager businessmen with euro calculators implanted in their brains; adventurers who after conquering women and mountains lacked only politics from their trophy collection; and even some dreamers and activists with instincts to do the right thing.

Then there are the clueless ones who for most of the time they linger in politics live in a delusionary world guided by a logic that most people are simply unable to decode. But these politicians’ contributions to useful public discourse equals zero if we do not count their words that fall into the political folklore category, utterances designed to entertain or outrage.

One of these “politicians” is Vincent Lukáč, an MP for the Slovak National Party (SNS), who recently said that he would stand behind SNS boss Ján Slota until the day he dies since Slota is “a god” for him and that Vladimír Mečiar, whose Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) couldn't even make it into parliament, is “Mr. Politician”. In the global picture, Lukáč and his personal opinions do not make much of a difference, apart from deepening the disillusionment of international observers about the quality of Slovak politicians.

But there are officials whose statements are watched more carefully who have now been in politics long enough to understand that the dividing line between a “private opinion” and a “public statement” becomes much narrower the moment they assume public office. And this applies even more so to someone who has climbed into one of the three most significant public positions in Slovakia.

Speaker of Parliament Richard Sulík, chairman of the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, in an op-ed piece for the Hospodárske Noviny financial daily wrote that Slovakia should stop blindly believing the leaders of the eurozone and start working on a “plan B” for bringing back the Slovak crown, the country’s currency before 2009.

“We are too small of a country to significantly influence the actions of the EU; so at least we have to protect the wealth that the people living in Slovakia have created,” Sulík wrote, launching a wave of speculation about the strength and stability of the euro.

Prime Minister Iveta Radičová was quick to dismiss the idea that her cabinet would consider a “plan B” – emphasing that her government had not thought “for a single second” about bringing back the crown. She added that Sulík’s statements were more than risky.

At a press conference, Sulík explained that he has been writing columns for the daily for some time, often confrontationally, and that these have always been his personal opinions. Nevertheless, Sulík opened the doors to wild speculation and of course poured fuel on the political fires of past prime minister Robert Fico, who immediately charged that the speaker was endangering the euro’s stability.

Perhaps some politicians are simply infatuated with their “blogger past” when their fans rejoiced over provocative and brave talk about everything to do with the economy and politics. Undoubtedly, such blogs and articles can be refreshing in many ways, inspiring citizens, journalists, and even elected officials to explore ideas that they would not have otherwise considered.

But having power in political life brings with it certain responsibilities: it changes the distinction between public and private utterances and adds, not always justly, weight to the words used by those serving in public positions. Whatever a public official says or does has a much larger impact than even the most intelligent words crafted by a blogger or a Facebook friend.

And unless our top political leaders begin to understand this difference, they will further devalue political discourse, turning Slovakia’s political space into nothing more than a huge political railway station where politicians just pass through, leaving nothing of substance other than discarded plastic bottles.

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