ENJOYING Coca-Cola is nothing exceptional, so why are so many people discussing Robert Fico’s choice of drink on election night, even two weeks after the vote? Because of what it could be saying about the country’s future.
Coke plays a small but by now well-known role in the notorious Gorilla file, an alleged secret service document describing meetings at a bugged apartment where financial shark Jaroslav Haščák of the Penta group discussed bribes with top-level politicians.
It is this episode – which on Thursday, March 22, celebrated its sixth anniversary – that has made Coke famous in a new way: “Fico arrives directly from the car exhibition at Incheba. He asks Haščák: ‘So, how are you doing?’ Haščák replies: ‘Fine. Let’s go sit here behind the table’. Fico goes to the restroom. After his return Haščák asks him, what he’ll have. Fico chooses cola.”
Given that the Gorilla scandal had a decisive impact on the outcome of the election and that it was virtually impossible to take a picture of Fico without a bottle of Coke in his hand as he was celebrating victory, speculation immediately began as to just what he was trying to say. Fico himself claims there is nothing to it. “I hadn’t planned it. I drink cola because it helps my stomach. And it helps me stay awake, because I don’t drink coffee. Moreover, I didn’t want to drink during the night, I had maybe two glasses of wine. I’m no longer twenty, I have to go easy on myself,” he said in an interview. This is in line with the “New Fico” doctrine Smer has been trying to sell to the public – the future PM is now more sober, more mature, and more friendly than during the 2006-2010 era. We’ll see how long this new image lasts.
Others believe Fico was laughing in the face of the right. Given its unexpectedly huge success at the polls, Smer has little choice but to play modest and nice. But the party leader couldn’t resist at least this small gesture, reminding his rivals of the file that in great part lost them the election. Pessimists see an even worse symbolism – an indication that the file will never be investigated, because one of the Gorillas is now in power. Or perhaps a nice ‘hello’ to Penta, which possibly could have lured Fico into the apartment, knowing that they were being secretly recorded.
And there is yet another option – perhaps the socialist leader, whose main election slogan was that “people deserve stability”, was just preparing to play the role of the red Santa Claus.