IT IS now showtime in Slovakia for every kind of political exhibitionist. As the elections approach, an assortment of political deviants – from fossils of the communist regime, to noisy buffoons, to people whose names are either remembered for a single spectacular failure or have long-since been forgotten – emerge from the woodwork of the public arena.
The prospect of power will lure onto the hustings those who appear in four-year cycles for yet another shot at getting elected. This is the time for those small parties of breakaways who left either over a petty quarrel after their personal ambitions were unfulfilled – or spoke out against their leader in a party where such practice are not tolerated.
If such a showcase of ambition and lack of self-reflection were to come only once every four years it might be entertaining to some degree. But this election campaign comes far too soon for the weary and disillusioned electorate of Slovakia. As a result, few expect to see a repeat of the post-election euphoria that followed the victory of the centre-right parties in 2010.
And even if the political right, with all its egos and differences of opinion, garners enough votes to match the support that opposition leader Robert Fico and his Smer party look set to collect, the memory of right-leaning voters will not be short enough to forget how their parties have handled their time in power and the hope entrusted to them: by manoeuvring the country into early elections.
This will not be the sole difference compared to elections past: the largest ruling coalition party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), will be led by Mikuláš Dzurinda, whose political-biological clock has been ticking for some time. Dzurinda, who has made an undeniable contribution to setting Slovakia on its current pro-European track, has refused to hear the ticking sound. Even when forced in 2010 by the returning ghosts of murky party financing to stand aside in favour of Iveta Radičová, he never yielded the leadership of the party he had founded, and thus helped deny her the unambiguous support of the largest ruling party – something that no prime minister can easily govern without.
Even though politicians say polls are capricious and that they do not shape their policies, in fact they do influence how politicians talk and what they say. The most recent poll, conducted after the fall of the government by the MVK polling agency, gives Smer a commanding lead, with 37.5 percent of the vote. The SDKÚ trails a distant second on 11.6 percent, well down from the 15.42 percent the party collected in the last election. Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), the party which did the most to bring down the government by refusing to back the ratification of changes to the eurozone bailout fund or express confidence in the Radičová government, would score 10.9 percent, followed by the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) on 9.5 percent and Most-Híd with 8.2 percent. No other party in the MVK poll would clear the 5-percent threshold needed to make it into parliament.
So it is already clear that all the rejections and exclusions of partners that these parties have exchanged – the rest of the ruling-coalition towards SaS; SDKÚ and SaS to Smer; KDH to Smer – are unlikely to endure and might easily be washed away after the election results rain down on the parties.
Of course the dwarfs and the hyper-ambitious “new politicians” can pick up some votes here and there, and weaken one or other of the right-wing parties depending on the tone they set for the campaign. But the key decisions will certainly be in the hands of the established parties.
Which leaves many voters with a dilemma: what guarantee is there, even if the centre-right parties manage to push their party interests aside and put together the numbers necessary to form a government, that in a momentary lapse of reason and surge of self-importance overshadowing the broader public interest they will not discard the trust placed in them and repeat the whole fiasco again?
As the campaign train now starts puffing, all kinds of figures are jumping on the wagons. Members of some parties, such as the Civic Conservative Party (OKS) seem to be joining three different wagons: the Ordinary People group – which cannot even use its original name any more because it has been ‘stolen’ by another political body – Most-Híd and SaS. But with voters this tired, the prospect of electoral entertainment is feeble compensation for their dilemma about whom to vote for, lingering as it does like the prospect of a hangover after an all-night party.
7. Nov 2011 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová