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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Jednofarebná

NEVER IN its history has Slovakia had a single-colour government (jednofarebná vláda). Vladimír Mečiar’s brownish Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) came closest to ruling alone in 1992, when it gained 74 out of 150 seats. Still, he needed the additional votes provided by the black Slovak National Party (SNS). When both parties split two years later, they were replaced by an interim cabinet made up of renegades from the old coalition, plus members of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH).

NEVER IN its history has Slovakia had a single-colour government (jednofarebná vláda). Vladimír Mečiar’s brownish Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) came closest to ruling alone in 1992, when it gained 74 out of 150 seats. Still, he needed the additional votes provided by the black Slovak National Party (SNS). When both parties split two years later, they were replaced by an interim cabinet made up of renegades from the old coalition, plus members of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH).

Mečiar won the 1994 elections decisively, gaining 61 seats; the SNS and the extreme-left Union of Slovak Workers gave him the remainder he needed. In 1998 the pro-democratic, pro-Western, pro-reform forces secured a majority. The resulting coalition included a mix of ten parties of all shapes and sizes. Four years later came a combination that was homogeneous by local standards – only conservatives, populists, liberals and Hungarians were on board.

Five years ago Robert Fico (in this picture from the Sme daily) decided to form a red-brown-black combination between his Smer party and the HZDS and SNS, a choice European socialists criticised heavily until they realised Fico was the last among them who could actually win an election and run a country.

In 2010, once again, all the pro-civilisation parties joined forces and formed a coalition resembling the one from 2002. With one tragic difference: they weren’t able to hold it together for much more than a year.

However complex all of this sounds, several truths have held throughout the years: the left vs. right divide never played any significant role; the struggle was always between the democrats and the totalitarians. Both camps were of similar size, both were made up of several parties, and new ones always emerged to tip the balance one way or another. We are now seeing three symptoms that this old paradigm may be in its terminal days: first, Smer has a real chance of ruling alone; second, the divide on the right is unprecedented, both in its intensity of animosity, and in terms of the quantity of parties on offer, and third, the old ideological lines are blurred and new ones are emerging. Until now, being pro-reform and pro-EU meant one and the same. The vote on the European bailout fund, which led to the government’s collapse, showed that is no longer the case.

Fico has everything going for him – he has destroyed all competition on the left, sucked-up the voters of the HZDS, and will likely do the same to the SNS. He has no rivals within his own party. The bailout debate made him seem more responsible than many on the right. And he is, in fact, much more sophisticated than the half-mad Mečiar ever was. Still, the day when he is able to single-handedly paint the country any colour he pleases will be a dark one.


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