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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Žúr

IF THERE is one thing people tend to remember, it’s a good party (žúr). And in Slovakia, parties define entire political eras. Before the 1998 general election Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar organised a grandiose meeting for his fans in Trnava. Ten special trains and tens of buses brought 20,000 enthusiastic supporters to a football stadium, where the party’s 150 candidates for the election were announced. The fun part was that not even the nominees themselves knew beforehand who would make it onto the list. There were planes flying overhead, there was music, even Mečiar sang to the tune of “I have no car, I have no motorbike”. The entire essence of Mečiarism was captured in this one event – the megalomania, the authoritarianism, the secrecy, the money Mečiar had to throw around.

IF THERE is one thing people tend to remember, it’s a good party (žúr). And in Slovakia, parties define entire political eras. Before the 1998 general election Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar organised a grandiose meeting for his fans in Trnava. Ten special trains and tens of buses brought 20,000 enthusiastic supporters to a football stadium, where the party’s 150 candidates for the election were announced. The fun part was that not even the nominees themselves knew beforehand who would make it onto the list. There were planes flying overhead, there was music, even Mečiar sang to the tune of “I have no car, I have no motorbike”. The entire essence of Mečiarism was captured in this one event – the megalomania, the authoritarianism, the secrecy, the money Mečiar had to throw around.

The night after the 2006 elections, when Smer celebrated its victory, they let journalists stand outside, doors protected by bodyguards with short hair, broad shoulders and black suits. The party was a sign of things to come – arrogance, disregard for those with other opinions, and shady characters controlling access to the halls of power.

A rather different scene came four years later, when the SDKÚ’s Iveta Radičová told an excited SaS boss Richard Sulík, drunk on a sense of election victory and eager to get Fico’s coalition out of power, “to hold the balloons and wait”. All of that in front of TV cameras. A sense of relief over the political change, more openness in public life, and strange communication habits within the coalition have all remained.

Now comes news of another žúr, which illustrates the times we are living in. Supreme Court judges, attorneys, law teachers, and the man now in charge of the prosecutor’s office, meeting in the ‘Bonanno’ pub, running around dressed as the mass murderer from Devínska Nová Ves and calling each other “Your Honour” and “Your Imbecility” and giving each other “Justice Oscars”.

Yes, this is how the Slovak justice system works. The recent fight for the post of general prosecutor is important. But we are a long way from radical change. The people from the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, and even within the prosecutor’s office itself are not going anywhere. They have created their own world and breaking their ties is not something that can be accomplished in a year. Or perhaps even a decade. Even if the coalition now elects its candidate for general prosecutor, the wild party in the judiciary is far from over.


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