AFTER a court suspended the publication of a book which has not even been through a final edit, after a newly established party with bold election promises split even before making it as far as the elections, and with a new revelation appearing almost weekly via the internet of some new hush-hush file about politicians running in those same elections, the Slovak electorate would be entitled to feel that anything is now possible.
There is still one month to go until the polling stations open but considerably more people are expected to stay at home than in June 2010, when the voters ushered into power a coalition of centre-right parties who have since signally failed to understand the weight of the responsibility they were given – and the fact that such chances do not come along very often.
Mikuláš Dzurinda has seen the popularity of his party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), sinking and participants in the Gorilla protests calling for his withdrawal from politics. But Dzurinda does not feel like going and seems to be fuelled by a hope – incomprehensible to many – that the SDKÚ under his leadership, without undergoing any self-reflection, will again convince people to vote for it.
“We are convinced that we would be headed to hell if we had a single-party government, a government of Smer,” Dzurinda said on February 7, adding that a Smer-led constitutional majority with the help of the Slovak National Party (SNS) would be even worse.
The truth is that all those who think another Fico government would be a bad thing for Slovakia can only agree with what is being said but cannot sympathise with the person saying it, or his reasons for doing so.
Right-wing voters, or rather those who oppose Fico-style populism, are now tired of being expected to do the right thing by voting for the lesser evil. And the parties on the right are giving them precious little incentive to do so this time around.
They might be persuaded to vote for Lucia Žitňanská, the SDKÚ justice minister, without too much angst. But in order to see her back at the Justice Ministry doing a clean-up that has been overdue for the past 20 years, one has to “marry” the whole party – with its past party financing baggage, a roaring Gorilla and Dzurinda, who says he has paid his dues but has signally failed to clean-up his own backyard.
The dilemma for voters is not an easy one because they may well have to live with the outcome of this election for the next four years.
Meanwhile, anyone who had dreamed for one second that Igor Matovič and his idiosyncratic election slate could really bring together in one happy family religious conservatives and economic and social liberals, not to mention people for whom political scientists have yet to think up a definition, have now – a month before the election – received a rude awakening.
Around 30 people from the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities decided this past week that they would not play Matovič’s “let’s pass the lie detector” game and quit the election slate of the enfant terrible of Slovak politics. It is clear that Matovič and his Ordinary People will do little to revive people’s faith in the common sense of the right, especially following its suicidal performance in recent months, including the fall of the government.
If nothing else, the recent decision by a Bratislava court to block publication of an unfinished book about alleged high-level political corruption being written by investigative journalist Tom Nicholson, a former editor-in-chief of this newspaper – a ruling dubbed ‘censorship’ by media experts – serves to remind us that things could still get even worse.
Let’s hope that the Gorilla Protests are not just a pre-election craze and that the politicians do not relax in the hope that things will return to “normal” – at least not “normal” as defined by the Gorilla file.
Unless there is self-reflection within some of the parties, even at the cost of the departure of those whose names have been irreparably tarnished, and unless there are some real changes to the system to narrow the room for corruption, then the faith of this nation in its politicians will continue to erode and parties will no longer be able to hope for a vote for the lesser evil, because there will be none.