SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Ničnerobenie

“THOSE who do nothing, do nothing wrong,” says one Slovak proverb. The Christian Democrats, good conservatives that they are, do what they can to stick to the wisdom of their forefathers. But someone should try explaining to them that the point is to keep trying, not to indulge in ničnerobenie (“nothing-doing”) in the hope that that way things will turn out alright.

Ján Figeľ, leader of the KDH. Ján Figeľ, leader of the KDH. (Source: SITA)

“THOSE who do nothing, do nothing wrong,” says one Slovak proverb. The Christian Democrats, good conservatives that they are, do what they can to stick to the wisdom of their forefathers. But someone should try explaining to them that the point is to keep trying, not to indulge in ničnerobenie (“nothing-doing”) in the hope that that way things will turn out alright.

A recent opinion poll by the Focus agency found the party’s support fall to just over 6 percent. In a system where 5 percent is the minimum required to get into parliament, that is not good news for a party. Just a month ago things did not look so dire, as the party was over 10 percent.

The sudden fall indicates that the events in recent months are hurting the KDH. Party boss Ján Figeľ has still not given up his flat in the centre of Bratislava, which he promised to do after it emerged that he had got it virtually for free from his party colleagues at the city council. Neither has his performance building highways and redirecting European funds been very convincing. Health Minister Ivan Uhliarik, virtually unknown to the public before getting into office, has become a more familiar face mainly thanks to some strange personnel decisions at the Bratislava emergency service, and some even more suspicious decisions – concerning which vaccines would be paid for by the state – that seemed to unjustly favour his former employer.

But the party has a deeper, long-term problem which will not go away even if the numbers recover a little. It is failing to adjust to a modernising society, where issues such as abortion, sex education, or treaties with the Holy See cannot win elections. If the KDH does not want to end up like the Czech Christian Democrats, or Vladimír Mečiar’s HZDS, which are no longer in parliament, it should learn its lessons – a conservative agenda and reliance on an aging group of voters is very tricky.

The party tried to redefine itself in 2009, when Figeľ was elected party leader. The party expected to receive over 10 percent in the 2010 elections, but ended up with only 8, the same as in 2006. That was the first sign that a radical turnaround for the better had not occurred.

If the KDH is to become competitive again, it should do at least three things: find new, dynamic leaders; move its agenda more to the centre; and demonstrate an ability to deal with the economy.

No other party can boast the history and tradition of the KDH, founded in 1990 and present in all parliaments since. And in testing times it has tended to be on the right side of history. But if it fails to do things right now, its members will soon have plenty of time for sweet ničnerobenie.


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