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EDITORIAL

The faces of power

TOO MUCH power is unhealthy for any politician and can easily set anyone who lacks a sense of balance on the road to becoming a caricature of himself – or something even more disturbing: the father of the nation, a saviour or miraculous political medicine man who claims to have the remedy for the pains of the needy and desperate.

TOO MUCH power is unhealthy for any politician and can easily set anyone who lacks a sense of balance on the road to becoming a caricature of himself – or something even more disturbing: the father of the nation, a saviour or miraculous political medicine man who claims to have the remedy for the pains of the needy and desperate.

Yet politicians with father-of-the-nation syndrome are always dangerous.

Any of this could easily happen to Robert Fico now that he has harvested an unprecedented victory, gaining 83 seats in the parliamentary elections on March 10 and the chance to form the next government on his own. Fico says he has learned his lessons and is not afraid to rule alone.

In a post-election interview with the Sme daily, Fico said he had been filled with a great sense of respect by the results he had achieved.

“Any inflated ego, aggressiveness or arrogance, even if justified by provocation, would be very dangerous,” Fico told Sme. “One has to have his feet firmly on the ground and do it in a way that one is not ashamed to go out to the street. I want to walk in a way that I will not have to creep alongside the walls.”

Journalists have noticed that Fico has been more forthcoming in giving interviews, but when pressed for an answer on the question of whether his attitude to journalists had changed, he replied: “Fico is the same”.

Referring to what he called the “war” with journalists he said: “One can at least strike even. But it is a war which consumes too much energy on both sides”.

Fico has on several occasions in the past described the media as his political opposition and, in more emotional moments, called journalists prostitutes, hyenas and even idiots.

Now, when Fico is already making phone calls to the people who may become ministers in his new government, even his critics are trying to detect some signs of a positive metamorphosis in the Smer boss.

Of course, for some, this could well be a kind of mental self-preservation because even right-wing voters do not want to spend the next four years agonising over the election results and the wasted chances of the last two years.

Even Fico’s opponents hope that with the massive power he has gained he will rule the country reasonably.

Nevertheless, Fico will remain a populist and populism by its very nature does not always work for the benefit of the nation, but rather for that of the politician in the hunt for more “love”.

But now is without doubt Fico’s time and both his supporters and critics will finally get a chance to see what Smer can achieve when not paired with nationalists like Ján Slota or semi-autocrats like Vladimír Mečiar.

Fico has already said that he will seek non-partisan nominees for at least two ministries, foreign affairs and economy being the most probable.

Miroslav Lajčák, Fico’s foreign minister from January 2009 to June 2010, has been tipped by the media as a likely candidate for the former post.

If the right pick is made, non-partisan nominees could maintain some continuity where this is needed, rather than launch yet another massive reshuffle at all levels of the administration. But reshuffles will come anyway once the time of declarations is over and Slovakia steps back into everyday politics.

There are many partisan nominees and party supporters to satisfy, and it would be naive to think that the moment to end the system of party nominations has arrived with Fico’s second coming.

Observers have suggested that Fico is being generous with the opposition parties, for instance offering them leading parliamentary committee posts, because he still wants to somehow distribute responsibility while keeping a hold on real power.

Let’s hope that Fico is aware that if things under this government go terribly wrong, he will go down in history as the guy who won more power than anyone since the fall of communism but simply could not handle it and allowed the list of those “fathers of the nation” to become richer by yet another man.

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