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EDITORIAL

Real change, or play-acting?

IGOR Matovič and his Ordinary People were identified as a potential source of trouble within the ruling coalition even before Matovič, soon after last year’s general election, entertained the media by suggesting that he had been offered millions of euros to destabilise the then-fragile coalition of centre-right forces. He later tossed aside his claim of possible corruption by explaining that it was just a joke by a friend of his.

IGOR Matovič and his Ordinary People were identified as a potential source of trouble within the ruling coalition even before Matovič, soon after last year’s general election, entertained the media by suggesting that he had been offered millions of euros to destabilise the then-fragile coalition of centre-right forces. He later tossed aside his claim of possible corruption by explaining that it was just a joke by a friend of his.

It was also clear long before Matovič received his “educational slap on the face” from one-time Slovak National Party deputy chairwoman Anna Belousovová – after the “ordinary” man called her by a disrespectful diminutive, “Anča” – that he would not be earning his place in the media spotlight based on any weighty legislative proposals or an intellectual debating style. Most-Híd chairman Béla Bugár highlighted this aspect of Matovič’s character when in a recent interview he said that whenever the MP sees a security camera he starts giving interviews.

Matovič and his Ordinary People have been behaving like adolescents who have come of age but want to pick only those aspects of adulthood which they enjoy or which suit their image – or rather their idea of how they would like to be perceived. However, the key to the ruling coalition’s majority lies in the hands of these political adolescents who could eventually, if they are able to control themselves, bring about some changes.

Yet it seems that Matovič’s energy, driven by a sudden surge of self-importance, has been consumed by watching his own image in different poses, positions, statements and situations, just like Alice in a political wonderland.

After he voted in favour of an opposition proposal in parliament, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) expelled Matovič from its parliamentary caucus on February 10. Yet the threat of the government losing its majority – without the faction’s other three deputies the coalition parties would be left with only 74 MPs out of 150 – was lifted on February 16 when the Ordinary People’s Jozef Viskupič, Erika Jurinová and Martin Fecko promised to remain within the coalition and vote with the government in parliament.

They also said that they would stay for as long as Matovič does not establish his own party. Yet Matovič, as his behaviour has shown, is obviously not a party person and what he likes doing most is undermining existing structures. He is a typical example of those who build their profile based on criticism of the existing system while offering what they call “genuine” solutions to benefit ordinary people. Yet he has no plan to achieve such an outcome.

Commentators point out that given the way Matovič and his buddies operate they will not be able to seriously challenge the system as it currently exists, based on political parties installing their people to all levels of the state administration. This set-up means that whenever power changes hands in Slovakia, it is followed by a massive wave of political reshuffles.

In a recent interview with Sme.sk, Matovič suggested that on average each MP has at least 10 nominees in state firms and institutions, something which buys MPs’ loyalty and glues the coalition together. Following criticism from coalition MPs he agreed to correct his statement – but only to say that the average is more likely closer to 20.

Now, as a “free deputy” Matovič has challenged the ruling coalition to publish, by March, a list of its nominees to state positions. What remains problematic though is the credibility of Matovič and the stories that he and SaS boss Richard Sulík have offered to explain the alleged agreement over how Matovič would vote on amendments to the State Citizenship Act. Sulík says their agreement did not include the option that Matovič would vote for a proposal drafted by Robert Fico’s Smer party. The Ordinary People leader says it did.

If the new style of politics is based on tipsy agreements where the public is served two differing interpretations it will not increase people’s trust in politics; quite the contrary.



While some believed that Matovič could have had the potential to represent a new generation of politicians, his performance so far has only highlighted the imperfections of the system, and suggests he will not be able to change any of the system’s failings from the inside.


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