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EDITORIAL

The cursed chair melodrama

THE ‘CURSED Chair’ could easily be the catchy title for Slovakia’s main-stage political melodrama: who will occupy the general prosecutor’s chair for the next seven years. Though the developments over the past eight months bear many signs of a soap opera, where many unexpected, often unpredictable and really absurd events have tumbled in the path of the 'hero', reality is much more serious than that because our country is deciding who will lead one of the most powerful and important institutions in the country.

THE ‘CURSED Chair’ could easily be the catchy title for Slovakia’s main-stage political melodrama: who will occupy the general prosecutor’s chair for the next seven years. Though the developments over the past eight months bear many signs of a soap opera, where many unexpected, often unpredictable and really absurd events have tumbled in the path of the 'hero', reality is much more serious than that because our country is deciding who will lead one of the most powerful and important institutions in the country.

The problem with this particular melodrama, entertaining the nation since last December, is that we cannot really hire another screenwriter since the plot is being written by a whole bunch of people: the elected general prosecutor and the former general prosecutor and their supporters and opponents; parliamentary deputies; the prime minister, and her opponents and supporters; and the Slovak president as well.

And what is the latest turn? Former general prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka, who is desperately clinging to the throne of his kingdom called the prosecution, now claims that he should have been declared the winner of the May 17 secret ballot vote in parliament and his name should have been sent on to the president for appointment.

Trnka has taken this argument to the Constitutional Court, claiming that his basic rights to equal access to an elected public position were violated because the results of the May 17 vote were counted incorrectly. Trnka won the support of 70 MPs of the 150 present, 17 voted against him, 29 deputies abstained from the vote, and 34 votes were invalid. According to Trnka’s logic, the invalid votes should have not been counted in the total and thus his 70 votes were more than a majority.

To spice up the melodrama, Jozef Čentéš, finally elected by MPs from the ruling coalition after a rather laborious trial and error process, which at several points could have brought down the government, admitted that he had accidentally deleted a computer file with widely-publicised testimony on what the 'witness' called massive political corruption and had also shredded the hard copy of that testimony. The “witness” was no one other than the enfant terrible of the political stage, independent MP Igor Matovič of the Ordinary People faction who later on the same day repeated his testimony with Čentéš, saying that the accidental destruction of his first testimony should not be used against Čentéš and that he had given essentially the same testimony.

But for the opposition Smer party, which would dearly like Trnka to return to office, it matters very little what Matovič said, because the incident fits perfectly into their juicy role in the melodrama, giving them some new ammunition to fire at Čentéš. Since Matovič has been trumpeting for some time that he was going to reveal information on large-scale political corruption, Smer now states that Čentéš deleted the first testimony because it was damaging to the ruling coalition.

Even if it is highly improbable that Čentéš intentionally dumped the testimony, if it had happened, Matovič – driven by his political exhibitionism – would have been all over the media with it. But the fact that Čentéš made a clumsy blunder, even before he has been officially appointed by President Gašparovič, makes the ‘elected general prosecutor’ very vulnerable.

The situation will certainly not increase the public’s confidence in the prosecution – something that many had hoped Čentéš would bring – because it is clear that Čentéš poorly handled the whole communication process around the shredding incident.

So, the 'Cursed Chair' melodrama has already featured court rulings over changing the secret ballot into a recorded vote, along with deputies photographing their ballots or openly declaring who they had supported, thus serving up on a golden plate another reason for Trnka to challenge the May 17 vote count before the Constitutional Court.

Now, if Čentéš finally succeeds in getting officially appointed, he will have to work unbelievably hard to wash down the after-taste of all the absurd turns of this process. But until then, all of us who are forced to continue to watch this melodrama unfold are left with nothing but a hope that some even more unbelievable turn in the plot will not glue the wheels of the prosecution to someone who truly seems to prefer bathing in unlimited power, preferably for a limitless time, all the while doing so behind firmly-closed doors.


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