GORILLAS and water-dwelling predators, or as the Slovaks call them ‘sasankas’, have been sneakily attacking Slovakia’s electorate over the past month or so, making sure that prospective voters are stripped of their remaining illusions about whichever party they had previously been inclined to vote for. Of course there are groups resistant to disillusionment and who overlook pretty much any political sin as long as they are served up the right promises at the right time by a populist leader. Observers agree that Smer voters will be the most resistant to whatever findings finally emerge from Gorilla, an investigation that the country’s SIS spy agency apparently carried out into suspected high-level corruption in 2005-6.
If his sympathisers have not already forsaken Fico in the light of the various revelations about wasted public funds or the cynical cronyism of his former coalition buddies over the last five years, then it seems that only the corrosive power of time will finally disabuse them, as happened to Vladimír Mečiar and his once-powerful Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). But until then Fico seems certain to win elections – or at least the next one.
Then there is Sasanka, yet another secret file which features SMS text messages allegedly exchanged between the chairman of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), Richard Sulík, and businessman Marián Kočner, whose name has surfaced in several controversial cases over the past two decades. The messages imply that Sulík kept Kočner updated with the latest insider details about the tortuous and politically-charged process of choosing a new general prosecutor in late 2010. While Sulík argues that he did not discuss with Kočner any murky deals, the leaked conversations will certainly not win the SaS boss any prizes for political integrity. Let us recall that only two years ago Sulík was supposed to be the new politician to replace those other, worn-out faces.
There is yet another disturbing facet to this catalogue of half-truths, one that political analysts have now started warning about: the extraordinary leakiness of the so-called secret services and their covert recordings. One could get the impression that half the nation has been listening to phone conversations made by the other half and then circulating and trading the transcripts.
For example on February 2, the Sme daily reported that it was in fact Pavol Pavlík of 99 Percent, the political movement which has run a lavish media campaign – including scores of expensive TV ads – to promote itself, who arranged a meeting for Sulík with the former second deputy head of the SIS counter-intelligence unit, who then showed Sulík the Gorilla file. Pavlík later commented that he does not understand why SaS did nothing with the file, while at the same time claiming that it was not 99 Percent that eventually published it online.
The Gorilla demonstrations are now providing an outlet for the frustration of people who have simply been stripped of their remaining illusions about politics in Slovakia, not to mention those who have barely had time to create any. Yet the protests, like any large public gathering, also offer a chance to those who simply want to experience a sense of revolt and “the power of the street”. Sooner or later someone will find a way to channel this momentary power or pressure, or let’s call it attention, for their own benefit.
Doubtless, it is the party of Mikuláš Dzurinda, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), that has paid the highest toll so far for Gorilla. It was under his second government that the operation took place and it was a nominee of his party who, among others is suspected of being involved in corruption. The SDKÚ has seen, via opinion polls, its leading position on the right of Slovak politics pass to the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH). Dzurinda insists that he will keep fighting but it must be clear by now even to him that the greatest service he could have rendered his party was to make way for someone else to lead the SDKÚ.
His argument that he has already paid his dues for the past mistakes of the party simply will not work. The problem for the SDKÚ is that now, a few weeks out from the elections, there is not really much the party can do. It has missed yet another chance to truly reinvent itself and somehow make voters believe that it has changed into what it claims to be: a modern, transparent, democratic party which is serious about fighting corruption. With Lucia Žitňanská at the top it could have been a much easier undertaking than it is now with Dzurinda and all his baggage.