Spectator on facebook

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EDITORIAL

Jobs for the lads and lasses

INFORMATION about secret societies, clandestine lists of privileged people, or documents with seven seals have always been part of politics. Some politicians have tried to prove their relevance by claiming to posses copies of such documents. Yet most things that are declared to be closely guarded secrets, turn out to be far from secret at all. And major revelations of such ‘secrets’ are often managed in such a way that the public ends up doubting whether the politician behind them is really making a sacrifice on the altar of transparency, or is in fact pursuing some personal agenda.

INFORMATION about secret societies, clandestine lists of privileged people, or documents with seven seals have always been part of politics. Some politicians have tried to prove their relevance by claiming to posses copies of such documents. Yet most things that are declared to be closely guarded secrets, turn out to be far from secret at all. And major revelations of such ‘secrets’ are often managed in such a way that the public ends up doubting whether the politician behind them is really making a sacrifice on the altar of transparency, or is in fact pursuing some personal agenda.

It came as no surprise that it was actually Igor Matovič, one of the self-declared ‘new type’ of politicians, who posted on his Facebook profile the first part of what he claims is a list of political nominees at all levels of the public sector.

It is hard to say what prompted his decision to publish the list: the countless Wikileaks reports that have recently flooded the media, or perhaps a recent opinion poll which showed Matovič’s Ordinary People faction enjoying an approval rate of just two percent? Let us assume for a moment that Matovič was inspired by a desire for transparency.

The Ordinary People boss attached the following commentary: “Today I came across this list of names, institutions and positions – plus there are some political parties noted. Who knows what it all could mean? If you know someone and you find something wrong or missing, then let me know; thanks.”

Matovič has long been heralding some great revelation about partisan nominations while accusing all those political parties which gained more than 3 percent in the last elections of corruption. He said recently that the parties are abusing political nominations so that they can reward their cronies, sponsors and the people who distribute flyers for them, and went on to claim that professional qualifications are not treated as being important when it comes to filling posts in the public administration.

On September 6, after publishing the list of people that he had dubbed party buddies, Matovič said he was uncertain whether the list actually represented a roll-call of partisan nominations – but that he expects his Facebook friends to help him solve the mystery, and explain what ‘all those abbreviations’ on the list mean.

As for transparency, Matovič refused to disclose the source of the list and hinted that the names came from two sources and that he had compiled the list himself. The extra-parliamentary Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) announced the next day that the list came from the general manager of Robert Fico’s Smer’s party.

Matovič said he considers the list but a first step on the path to purification of the political environment. Doubtless, in a country where the so-called ‘partocracy’ has such deep roots that people are no longer shocked or surprised when they read about party nominations, publishing the names of party nominees and the positions they hold might help to increase public awareness and remind people that these armies of party sympathisers are actually paid out of their taxes.

It would be preferable, after all, if they were picked only after they had also met a set of clear professional criteria: then the public could perhaps demand a stricter definition of positions where there would be no cushioned chair for party nominees, but instead clearly delineated jobs for top experts.

Yet the fact that it was Matovič who published the list, and the way he did so, seriously undermines the initiative’s credibility. The leader of the Ordinary People faction, who along with his three colleagues made it into parliament on the slate of the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, has impressed himself on the memory of observers and probably most of Slovakia’s electorate as an incurable exhibitionist with an alarming lack of understanding of the weight of words and his wider responsibilities.

Regardless, the list has not caused any major shock in society; no mass outrage over the hundreds upon hundreds of names of people who have allegedly been rewarded for their political loyalty by being given the job of managing some very important parts of public life.

The truth is that Slovaks just assume that partisan sympathies bring public-sector jobs and that there are some jobs that can be accessed only thanks to political connections.

Slovaks are far too accustomed to the massive clean-outs that normally take place after parliamentary elections. But the press mostly covers changes only in the more politically-exposed positions. The public is all too familiar with the spectacle of a party nominating three or even four candidates, one after another, for a top job – each rejection prompting an ever more desperate search for a politically reliable alternative who might still meet the professional criteria.

When all is said and done, if this list – which incidentally includes the names of ministers, who almost everywhere in the world are nominated by political parties, and also features the names of people who are clearly not political nominees – does end up starting a real debate that results in more pressure being brought to bear on political parties to observe stricter criteria to fill state posts, then maybe it will be possible to overlook the fact that the process was helped along by someone like Matovič, in spite of everything he stands for.


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