POWER is intoxicating and this is why in genuinely democratic societies people have to wield it while being stared at by a whole army of watchdogs. Being in power involves “enduring” all kinds of “hassles” such as evaluations, report cards and assessments.
Any new government is assessed by the media from the moment of its inception: it is panned for picking the inexperienced or for recycling burned-out politicians who seem to have been lingering for eternity. Then comes the symbolic 100-day grace period when the media gives the new government time to acclimatise – although this does not mean that if the watchdog notices something it will bark more quietly. If the government now thinks that the commentaries and analyses deconstructing its first 100 days are the last checks for a while, it is mistaken.
That the local media has now started looking at the first six months’ performance of the government of Iveta Radičová might be attributed to the quiet post-Christmas period, but it is also because expectations attached to this government have been quite high: being somewhat more transparent and more responsible than Robert Fico and his coalition, which included Vladimír Mečiar and Ján Slota, is simply not enough.
By now, some of the political greenhorns have learned to push the voting buttons in parliament at the right time, and have learned some pony-tricks to fake activity and involvement. Meanwhile the long-established one-trick ponies, such as Ján Slota of the Slovak National Party (SNS), have already proved that they will remain monothematic for another term, making very little contribution to public life other than occasional entertainment for those who linger at their mental level.
The government of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) and Most-Híd has set a completely different tone and brought a different symbolism into the public discourse in comparison with its predecessor.
Cronyism and corruption have been defined as new enemies – as opposed to journalists and the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, whom the former ruling parties often depicted, albeit indirectly, as a group of frustrated outsiders who still dreamed about the revision of Trianon. Yet the change in the political order does not mean that cronyism and corruption have been defeated – or that they have even lost a battle in the grand crusade of the new government.
All the cabinet has done is it to pick its weapons and draft some strategy, although this is already more than the previous government managed to do in its term. This is partly because cronyism was not even defined as a problem, but rather was wrapped into an explanation of why it would be wrong for people close to the former ruling party, which according to the Smer’s definition constituted half of the nation, to be discriminated against in tenders or state orders. And loyalty, of course, has to be rewarded somehow.
One of the new government’s weapons of choice is to oblige state institutions to publish all contracts and invoices that involve state money.
Radičová, in an interview with the Sme daily, said “even in the Czech Republic they are talking about the need to adopt a system of publishing contracts like the one we have installed. Isn’t that a result?”
Predictably enough, outside the transparency discourse, the reality is that the public administration and municipalities have not welcomed the decision with any enthusiasm and are diligently working out how to cover up the cracks through which light may now filter into areas they prefer dark.
Besides, the murky party financing baggage that the SDKÚ has been loading onto its party carriage for many years and the not-very-convincing wrap-up of the investigation into it, not to mention the convoluted statements surrounding it, will remain a thorn which will continue to fester when it is touched. It appears SDKÚ can neither remove nor absorb the thorn. Of course, all the concurrent claims of a Smer financing scandal suggest that financing of parties in Slovakia requires a serious clean-up. If this government does not manage the task it cannot portray itself as a good custodian of the nation.
17. Jan 2011 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová