SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Čierny Peter

THE RULES of the game are simple: The dealer deals thirty-three cards – sixteen pairs and one with no match – to two or more players. The players discard any pairs they have, and take turns offering their hand to the person next to them. The neighbour selects one card and if it forms a pair with one of his original cards, he discards the pair. The game goes on until all players have no cards, apart from one who is left with the unmatchable card – the Black Peter.

SaS MPs lined up to express their united opposition to the eurozone bailout schemes.SaS MPs lined up to express their united opposition to the eurozone bailout schemes. (Source: TASR)

THE RULES of the game are simple: The dealer deals thirty-three cards – sixteen pairs and one with no match – to two or more players. The players discard any pairs they have, and take turns offering their hand to the person next to them. The neighbour selects one card and if it forms a pair with one of his original cards, he discards the pair. The game goes on until all players have no cards, apart from one who is left with the unmatchable card – the Black Peter.

Čierny Peter is not only one of the most popular traditional children’s games, rivalled perhaps only by Ludo, it is also one of the most widely used metaphors – there are innumerable situations when you don’t want to be the last one “holding the Black Peter”.

And currently, the country seems to be playing two simultaneous games, both with enormous stakes. The first is international – the Slovak government decided to wait before making any decision on the euro-buffer until all other countries of the eurozone had decided. Its initial hopes that someone else would sink the plan before we do are vanishing, so the divided coalition will have to reach some sort of a conclusion. It is certain that we will make the last move. The question now is when exactly (the ruling right hasn’t been able to agree even on that), and whether the day will be remembered by global markets and European historians as being dark, dark black.



The other game is being played in the local political arena. SaS boss Richard Sulík has gained international fame for opposing the European rescue mechanisms and has not yet indicated any inclination to support the buffer. Can he still change his mind? Yes. And some members of his party are starting to indicate compromise is possible. But Sulík’s opposition has so far been so fierce that finding a decent exit strategy could prove almost impossible. Besides, he seems to hold a real, deep conviction that he is right and everyone else is wrong.

The opposition Smer party supports the project, but has vowed not to vote in favour if the coalition doesn’t give its unanimous support. In the end, maybe they will back the proposal regardless of what SaS does, but imagining the chaos the coalition would find itself in after a failed vote must be a huge temptation.

Radičová and the SDKÚ have a dilemma of their own – tying the buffer to a vote of confidence could convince SaS, but it could also bring down the government.

In any case, someone will either have to change a principled stance, or bear responsibility for a possible complete meltdown of the current political order.

These are the possible results of this particular game of Čierny Peter. A game the world also knows as ‘Old Maid’, or ‘Donkey’.


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