THE GORILLA file remains the single most resonant issue in Slovakia’s pre-election discourse. Gorilla, the name of an investigation that the SIS intelligence service apparently carried out into suspected high-level corruption in 2005-6, has spilled from newspapers, talk shows and discussion threads onto social networking sites and, most recently, the streets: a large rally took place in Bratislava on January 27 and more are now being planned for other cities. Though responses differ to what organisers call the spontaneous civic initiatives fuelled by Gorilla – an affair which has provided plentiful ammunition for pre-election political battles – observers agree that the rallies are an indicator of a much wider phenomenon: widespread disappointment on the part of voters with political parties on all sides of the spectrum. That said, some of the parties on the right appear, so far, to be paying the highest price.
Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic said that his ministry will publish partial results from the police investigation into the Gorilla case in the next few weeks, though adding that “the investigation of a case such as this cannot be completed in two months”. The minister, a member of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), justified the early publication of partial results as saying that this would prevent the investigation from being swept under the rug. On January 31, deputies of the parliamentary committee for defence and security were able to view documentation related to the actual Gorilla operation submitted by SIS boss Karol Mitrík at the request of the committee, the TASR newswire reported, citing committee chairman and Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) MP Martin Fedor.
The only comment Fedor offered following Mitrík’s appearance was that he regarded the information as important. Another committee member, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) deputy Pavol Hladký, was more forthcoming.
“I can state my conviction that the Gorilla operation 100-percent existed,” Hladký told TV news channel TA3 on January 31. He specified that the committee had requested information on the use of bugging devices.
Lipšic on January 27 released the former director of the police’s Office for the Fight Against Corruption, Tibor Gašpar, and the office’s former head of special operations, Ján Rejda, from their oaths of secrecy. The office previously investigated a version of the Gorilla file under Gašpar’s leadership and Lipšic has suggested that in 2008 the documents were shredded in violation of regulations.
Rejda, who in December confirmed that he had visited the apartment on Vazovova Street which is named in the file as a location which was bugged by the SIS, said in an interview with TA3 that copies of the transcripts of conversations covertly recorded as part of the Gorilla operation were traded by agents working for SIS counter-intelligence. In an interview on January 31 Rejda claimed that Mikuláš Dzurinda, who was then prime minister and remains the leader of the SDKÚ, directly intervened in the investigation.
A day later, Dzurinda told participants at a party rally in Považská Bystrica that the SDKÚ would step up its efforts to uncloak the lies and misinformation surrounding Gorilla.
“I know why I’m the main target and why they’re out to get me all the time,” said Dzurinda, as quoted by TASR. “It is because we [the SDKÚ] have always curtailed the leeway for corruption.”
Meanwhile the SDKÚ, according to at least two opinion polls conducted since the Gorilla story broke, has been replaced by the KDH as the most popular centre-right party. The most recent poll, published on February 1 by the Focus polling agency, gave SDKÚ 8.2 percent and the KDH 9.4 percent. It suggested that Smer retains its overwhelming lead, on 41.4 percent. Among the other parties on the right, SaS got 7.6 percent and Most-Híd 7.2 percent. The new Ordinary People and Independent Personalities polled 6.8 percent while the opposition Slovak National Party (SNS) received 5.6-percent support.
The second opinion poll, by the Polis agency, shows Smer on 41.5 percent, equivalent to 77 deputies and hence an outright majority in the 150-seat parliament, followed by the KDH on 11 percent (20 seats). Next came Most-Híd and the SDKÚ, both on 7.7 percent (14 deputies each), followed by Ordinary People and Independent Personalities on 7.2 percent (13 seats) and with SaS also crossing the 5-percent threshold required to win seats, with 6.3 percent (12 deputies).
Despite its slide in the polls – it won more than 15 percent in the June 2010 election – political scientists say that the SDKÚ does not have many options. Analyst Michal Horský said that in the election campaign the party has only two, bad options available to it: either continue to lay low; or scrap its election slate and replace Dzurinda, the leader, and his “crown prince” Ivan Mikloš.
Horský suggests that an alternative party leader could be Lucia Žitňanská, the well-regarded current justice minister. Another analyst, Ján Baránek, said that withdrawing Dzurinda would be logical but it could be interpreted as an admission of guilt in the Gorilla case. He agreed that a change in the party’s election slate would come too late and that there was no good solution for the SDKÚ, SITA reported.
Radičová rejects Fico’s ‘games’
Meanwhile Smer leader Robert Fico, who is named in the Gorilla file as meeting Jaroslav Haščák, the co-owner of the Penta financial group, and discussing with him “cleaning processes” within his party and possible post-election arrangements following the 2006 election, accused Prime Minister Iveta Radičová of meeting Haščák at her home in the village of Nová Dedinka. He made the accusation in comments broadcast by Slovak Television (STV), the Sme daily reported. Radičová who served as labour minister in 2005-6 and became prime minister after leading her party into the 2010 election, announced last year, after the fall of her government, that she would quit politics after the March 2012 election.
On February 2 she rejected Fico’s claims and said she would not be dragged into what she called “Gorilla games”. Her press department issued a statement in which she categorically denied claims by a Penta spokesman, reported in Sme, that “Radičová was among those public officials with whom Penta has communicated”. The statement described this as “a lie”.
“As PM Iveta Radičová has said, for example at a press conference on January 11, 2012, she was negotiating with representatives of employers when important issues, such as the tax and payroll-tax reform was being solved,” the release read. “With employers she discussed other important issues such as the Labour Code, payroll-tax bonus and employment. Just as she indicated three weeks ago on Slovak Radio, it is precisely [the continual need] to deny allegations that such meetings with businesses are suspicious that can be a reason [for someone] to withdraw completely from politics”.
Talking to journalists on the same day, she said that Penta representatives may have visited her house, but only at a time when she did not occupy a high state position, TASR reported. She added that enquiries about who had visited her house at a time when she did not hold public office constituted interference in her privacy.