FORTY-four can be a lucky number, especially if that is the indicator of the affection of the electorate for a particular political party. If no one else, Robert Fico, chair of the opposition Smer party, will long treasure the 44.8 percent popularity rating his party scored in a March poll taken by the Focus agency.
The parliamentary math instantly offered the media their headlines: Smer would be able to form a new government entirely on its own if a parliamentary election had been held in March.
The bad news for Fico and his shadow cabinet, however, is that there is not a parliamentary election in sight that could give rise to another government.
If the current coalition government manages to fine-tune its communication strategies and makes sure that its attention-driven politicians do not continue to serve up half-baked proposals which they instantly change in response to the first hint of public squeamishness, then there is little likelihood that Fico can turn that 44.8 percent number into a march back to the Government Office.
This poll, however, certainly has the potential to make the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) quite edgy since the party recorded a steep drop in popularity to only 6.3 percent, four points less than it polled in February. Martin Slosiarik, a sociologist with Focus, suggested that the KDH should wait for the next poll to see whether its dismal numbers are confirmed.
Observers could instantly point at the very thorns that left bleeding wounds on KDH’s corpus: the departure of Andrej Ďurkovský, one of the party’s founding members and the former mayor of Bratislava, whose political neck was snapped when media reported on the ‘hidden privatisation’ of Bratislava’s water utility just before last year’s municipal elections. As well, a legal analysis charges that Ďurkovský far exceeded his mayoral authority when he approved the demolition of Bratislava’s PKO cultural centre.
An earlier revelation that Ján Figeľ, KDH’s chairman and transport minister, received a valuable flat in Bratislava’s Old Town for the paltry sum of €2,000 has not helped the KDH much either, particularly when one of its officials had said it was “the party with the purest moral profile”.
Even if the theory is proved true that past supporters of the KDH have been only temporarily infected by Smer’s rhetoric that the current government is the worst enemy of citizens’ ability to afford the necessities of life, the KDH and the other parties of the coalition must soon undertake some sorely needed self-reflection and take a hard look at their social policies.
That, of course, might only be a wishful suggestion as the coalition fractiously debates how to live up to its 2010 programme declaration within its four-party-plus-two-faction structure.
What this particular poll clearly shows is that Fico is doing very well in opposition and that even though he might not prefer being severed from his past power, his rhetoric and overall approach to politics makes him one of the best-suited politicians to stand in opposition.
Of course, those who dislike being in opposition even more than Fico himself are the ‘Maecenases’ of the party who are likely dreading the prospect of more transparent public procurement.
Those who sigh that the Slovak electorate is more likely to lean towards those politicians who promise higher Christmas bonuses for pensioners than to political parties who seek to shine more light under the soiled black robes of the country’s Judicial Council might have a strong point.
The Slovak electorate may also have a fleeting memory and not fully remember the colourful tapestry of scandals that Fico and his coalition partners stitched while in office as they were queried in the March poll amidst the pain of a package of austerity measures enacted by the sitting government to heal the public deficit.
Eventually every populist politician runs out of rhetoric. But the ‘more-thoughtful’ politicians of the current coalition who seem to be unable to speak to citizens other than through half-baked messages that are later retracted, or who are unable to prioritise the promises they made, or who cannot even live up to their own pledges of relative purity, should not be surprised by unpleasant poll results. Nor should they even count on the continued loyalty of those who passionately do not want to see Robert Fico return to the prime minister’s seat.
4. Apr 2011 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová