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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Radičovej kód

IT’S BEEN another great week for conspiracy fans. The police claim to have discovered actual victims of the alleged cannibal, while some question not only his guilt but also the actions of the police who failed to catch him alive. The census is getting under way, propelling a wave of e-mails likening the project to the activities of the communist-era secret police and warning of possible abuses of personal data. National hockey team coach Glen Hanlon was sacked, leading to a national hunt for his successor. According to information from WikiLeaks, the US secretly advised Robert Fico’s government on how to buy back shares in Transpetrol, and thus prevent deeper Russian involvement in the country. Then add the main foreign news – the amorous adventures of IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

MPs voting on the general prosecutor. (Source: SITA)

IT’S BEEN another great week for conspiracy fans. The police claim to have discovered actual victims of the alleged cannibal, while some question not only his guilt but also the actions of the police who failed to catch him alive. The census is getting under way, propelling a wave of e-mails likening the project to the activities of the communist-era secret police and warning of possible abuses of personal data. National hockey team coach Glen Hanlon was sacked, leading to a national hunt for his successor. According to information from WikiLeaks, the US secretly advised Robert Fico’s government on how to buy back shares in Transpetrol, and thus prevent deeper Russian involvement in the country. Then add the main foreign news – the amorous adventures of IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

In this atmosphere it seems almost inevitable that the main event on the domestic political scene would be shrouded in secrecy. The selection of the general prosecutor had the potential to bring down Iveta Radičová’s government. In the end, it survived – but only, says Fico, thanks to the Radičová code. Fico’s theory is that coalition MPs marked their ballots to enable mutual control of who voted how. Now, in the past the Smer leader has come up with his fair share of conspiracy theories – the swine flu was a product of pharmaceuticals companies, the beating of Hedviga Malinová was an attempt by Hungarians to bring down his government, Americans went to Iraq because of oil. In fact, leaving aside Hitler and Elvis living on a common island, extraterrestrials wandering the globe, and freemasons running the world economy, Fico has probably at some point presented as plausible every imaginable conspiracy.

But this time is special. For once, Fico is almost certainly right. Going into a secret vote without some sort of checks would have been insane. Unfortunately for him, he will never be able to prove it. The ballots have been destroyed. And coalition MPs seem determined not to discuss their methods of voting in public. The prime minister was probably not involved in devising the mechanism, and maybe truly rejected any rigging, as she has asserted in her public appearances.

But when dealing with the dark world of conspiracies, one can never forget the truth expressed by former US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld: “We know there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” And for Radičová, the secret voting mechanism is either a known known, or a known unknown. There is little chance of it being an unknown unknown. To put it simply – she most likely knows the voting was not fully secret. One has to wonder how all this complies with the code Radičová values the most. The code of ethics.

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