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All mouth and no trousers?

IF POLITICS were nothing but a source of entertainment, and if the only harm its gallery of weirdos could potentially do to their audience was to serve up indigestible mental junk food, then some current parliamentary deputies might be considered perfectly suited to their role in the political reality show.

IF POLITICS were nothing but a source of entertainment, and if the only harm its gallery of weirdos could potentially do to their audience was to serve up indigestible mental junk food, then some current parliamentary deputies might be considered perfectly suited to their role in the political reality show.

But parliaments have an incomparably weightier impact on the ‘audience’ than just deforming their sense of aesthetics or cultural values. This does not stop some people, the political Narcissuses, from treating the chamber as an outlet for their surges of self-importance, all the while observing their own image reflected in the eyes of their voters, in different poses, statements and calls.

The people who voted Igor Matovič and his Ordinary People faction into parliament on the slate of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party may have hoped they were opening the gates to a new generation of politicians who would stand for principled, reasonable and fair politics, intended to benefit the public and not exclusively those who somehow managed to get inside the political machinery.

Yet anyone following Matovič’s brief career as an MP will by now be suffering serious doubts about him being the bringer of light to a system so vulnerable to cronyism and corruption. It is not that Matovič has not been talking the anti-cronyism talk. But he has done so in a way that has gradually exhausted his credibility.

Without political credibility, seriousness and most importantly the demonstration of evidence, some assertion will remain merely bombastic statements seasoned by suspicions of populism and self-promotion.

“I am accusing of corruption all the political parties which gained more than 3 percent in the elections,” Matovič said recently, adding that the parties are abusing political positions so that they can reward their cronies, sponsors and people who have been distributing flyers for them, and stating that professional qualifications are not important.

To make his story more credible, Matovič referred to what he called the district roads administration office. But this is an institution which, as the Sme daily pointed out, does not in fact exist. He was presumably referring to the roads administration authority of one of Slovakia’s eight regions.

Strangely enough, Matovič’s outburst came after the ruling coalition failed to back his demand, made during the debate on the revision to the Labour Code, to replace the meal vouchers that employers currently provide to regular employees with cash. In response to the coalition’s rejection, Matovič responded by suggesting that there had been massive lobbying by the firms that currently distribute meal vouchers. Yet he did not turn to the police, thus repeating the pattern set during his many previous assertion.

When Matovič’s name is mentioned, one immediately recalls how his parliamentary career began: with a claim made to journalists that he had been offered millions of euros to destabilise the fragile ruling coalition. When pressed for more information, he withdrew the claim, saying it was just a joke by a friend.

Another incident which instantly recalls Matovič is the “educational slap on the face” he received from former Slovak National Party deputy chairwoman Anna Belousovová after he referred to her, in one of his newspaper pieces, by the disrespectful diminutive, “Anča”.

Matovič has adopted the approach of trying to buy his place in the media spotlight at any price, usually in the form of bombastic statements rather than weighty legislative proposals. Some say that given the fragile nature of the ruling coalition, Matovič, for whom it sometimes seems politics is a huge gaming room where he can try out different bids and risks while hoping for the largest possible gain with no fear of the consequences, in fact possesses more influence than he is able to handle – or deserves.

The price he has to pay, however, is that after a certain time not even his past voters will take him seriously.

It could be that some information he throws into the public arena has some realistic basis, but given the style he has adopted, few will bother to check out whether what he is saying actually contains any serious revelations.

While partisan nominations at all levels of state administration deserve a closer look, and though parties have promised to reduce nominations based on party affiliation, there are still armies of nominees administering various areas of public life.

But the fact that Matovič has raised the issue means that little progress, if any, is likely to be made.

Most recently, Matovič said that his group has faced threats from one of the ruling coalition parties following his promise to publish a list of political nominees and that the party in question says it would support mass lawsuits by nominees against Ordinary People. Matovič claims that political nominations represent corrupt behaviour. But what if most people’s response is only to say: “Who said this? Matovič? Oh well…”

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