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Ahead: a year of 'everyday politics'

IN CONTRAST with last year, 2011 is not expected to be studded with particular events that have the potential to become political or media spectacles – or at least that is what political observers are forecasting based on what they see on the horizon of the dawning new year. This does not mean, however, that some significant political changes are not in the pipeline.

IN CONTRAST with last year, 2011 is not expected to be studded with particular events that have the potential to become political or media spectacles – or at least that is what political observers are forecasting based on what they see on the horizon of the dawning new year. This does not mean, however, that some significant political changes are not in the pipeline.

The first thing that pops up when looking back at 2010 is the parliamentary election in June that caused a significant power change in Slovakia’s top political posts. And if the past year from its very beginning could be earmarked as “the year of elections”, then 2011 could be characterised as the year of election follow-through and the initiation of reforms that the centre-right political parties promised to enact after they took power from the coalition government led by Robert Fico.

According to Darina Malová, the head of the department of political sciences at the Faculty of Philosophy of Comenius University, the year will be filled with “common, everyday politics”, which will revolve around relations between the governing coalition and the opposition, bilateral relations with Hungary, as well as on the country’s economic performance and developments within the European Union.

Grigorij Mesežnikov, a political analyst and president of the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), highlighted consolidation of public finances, a process which was launched by the new government last year, as the key agenda that will continue in 2011, both in the domestic context as well as within the broader contours of the eurozone.

Other changes that Mesežnikov expects to unfold in 2011 are an increase in government transparency and reforms in the judicial arena. Mesežnikov said judicial reforms will be particularly important for Slovakia, adding that “it will not have the form of some spectacular event, but rather a process”.

According to a survey recently released by IVO, there is less public perception of tension in social and economic areas.

People are less critical and not as concerned about economic reforms but are rather set to accept the measures that the government has been putting in place, Mesežnikov said in an interview with The Slovak Spectator.

Relations between Slovakia and Hungary, which became problematic during the term of the past government, especially after the Slovak parliament passed the State Language Act and the Hungarian parliament amended its citizenship legislation to allow Hungarians living outside Hungary to be more easily granted Hungarian citizenship, are not expected to be particularly troublesome in 2011.

“Hungary has got its own economic and political problems,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator. “It is a presiding country in the EU that now finds itself under the fire of criticism for passing some laws that are not in line with the European spirit.”

The centre-right coalition that currently governs Slovakia under the leadership of Prime Minister Iveta Radičová is generally expected to be stable.

“There have been some concussions in the past, but they never grew into a coalition crisis,” Mesežnikov said, adding that the ruling coalition managed even in hard situations to reach an agreement, particularly in the area of practical politics – deciding on laws.

“Most laws that the coalition agreed on have been passed,” he said. “And at this practical-politics level I expect the coalition to continue being united.”

Malová noted that stability within any coalition is hard to predict but given the fact that two new political parties are in the coalition many disagreements could occur, resulting in internal coalition disputes.

But she said that need not be a disadvantage. “It can, in the end, be of benefit for citizens,” Malová told The Slovak Spectator.

She added that the government and its stability will depend to a large extent on the tactics which the largest opposition party, Smer, headed by Robert Fico, uses in its political manoeuvring. She thought it very probable that Smer would try to use every opportunity to discredit the government and create situations that will intensify conflict and disagreement within the coalition.

Most recently, the governing coalition experienced discord when parliament failed to select the coalition’s candidate for general prosecutor, after six MPs from the coalition did not vote in line with their parties’ agreement in a secret ballot. It was only by a stroke of luck that the opposition-endorsed candidate, incumbent Dobroslav Trnka, was not selected.

Mesežnikov said trust between the coalition partners was shaken by this failure but argued that it was not a real coalition crisis but rather an attempt to corrupt a group of coalition MPs.

Malová noted that the forthcoming vote on the new general prosecutor, which will most likely be held under new rules in a public vote, is the most significant political event that overlaps into 2011 from last year and will continue influencing the political scene until it is resolved.

“It will be a test for the ruling parties,” Malová said.

Mesežnikov agreed that the vote will be an important moment for the coalition but he believes it is very likely that once the rules for the vote are changed the coalition’s endorsed candidate will be selected.

“I cannot imagine that after they change the way of voting there will not be a coalition majority that would select the general prosecutor,” Mesežnikov said.

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