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Opposition scraps over positions

A WEEK before the first official session of the new parliament it is still not clear who will be nominated for some of the most important parliamentary positions. Though the Smer party, which will form the government, named Pavol Paška as the new speaker of parliament, the four deputy-speaker posts remained empty, as did the chairs and deputy chairs of parliamentary committees.

A WEEK before the first official session of the new parliament it is still not clear who will be nominated for some of the most important parliamentary positions. Though the Smer party, which will form the government, named Pavol Paška as the new speaker of parliament, the four deputy-speaker posts remained empty, as did the chairs and deputy chairs of parliamentary committees.

Two days after President Ivan Gašparovič formally asked Robert Fico to form the new government on March 15, the incoming centre-right opposition was asked to nominate candidates for two of the deputy-speaker posts and nine chairs of parliamentary committees. The two deputy-speaker posts actually represent something of a concession by Smer: the opposition only got one in the last parliament. But it was obvious right from the first official discussions about the nominations that the bickering and recrimination among the centre-right parties, which had begun in earnest in October last year when their coalition fell apart, was set to continue.

Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) leader Ján Figeľ expressed his wish for future cooperation among the opposition.

“From the very first day, parliament should try [to achieve] not only a higher political culture, but also … effectiveness in its decision-making and actions,” he said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

But while there has been no challenge to the KDH’s claim on one of the deputy-speaker posts, given that it gained the second largest number of votes – after Smer – in the March 10 parliamentary elections, a fight broke out over the second post between two other parties.

While the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) led by Igor Matovič claimed that it had the right to fill the post as it had come a close third behind the KDH in the elections, Most-Híd, led by Béla Bugár, said that the deputy speaker should be someone with experience. OĽaNO is a new party, although Matovič has been an MP since 2010. Bugár, by contrast, has been a member of the Slovak parliament for 20 years.

The opposition finally agreed to propose Erika Jurinová, one of the founding members of OĽaNO. Like Matovič, she became an MP for the first time in 2010. Yet, it is not clear that she will be appointed to the post, since some Smer as well as opposition deputies are reportedly opposed to her candidacy, SITA reported. Smer’s 16-seat majority in the new parliament means it has the final say in all parliamentary appointments.

Rows over jobs

“The wiser one retreats,” said Bugár, as quoted by the TASR newswire, after he announced that he would not run for the post of deputy speaker after all.

His decision ended a week-long dispute between Most-Híd and OĽaNO which showed that dividing what little power the new opposition has will not be easy.

Bugár said that it was not a very good idea to nominate a person without experience since “it did not work well” when the outgoing centre-right government nominated Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) leader Richard Sulík, a parliamentary newcomer, to the speaker’s job in 2010. He was later ditched in favour of the more experienced Pavol Hrušovský, a former KDH leader, after SaS’ actions led directly to the government losing a no-confidence vote in October 2011.

Matovič subsequently described Bugár as rude person and claimed he had agreed with Smer not to support candidates proposed by OĽaNO, TASR wrote.

Bugár responded by saying that Matovič used lying as his method of working and that Most-Híd would not help him with his “pub politics”.

OĽaNO’s claim on the deputy-speaker post was supported by SaS, which said it had earned the right to take it by virtue of its third-place result in the elections.

“We do not like [the fact] that people who have been in parliament for 20 years want to fill the whole leadership of parliament,” said Sulík, as quoted by SITA.

Nevertheless, he admitted that it might be difficult for OĽaNO to win the support of other parties since Matovič has “set all MPs against him”. Matovič, along with Jurinová and two other faction colleagues, was elected as an MP in 2010 on the SaS party slate, but he quickly fell out with SaS and was ejected from the party in early 2011.

On the other hand, the nomination of Bugár was indirectly supported by the KDH’s Figeľ, who looked set to get the other deputy-speaker spot. He said that Bugár is not only an experienced leader, but also an experienced deputy speaker of parliament. Having him as one of the main representatives of parliament would be advantageous for Slovakia, Figeľ opined.

After Bugár withdrew his candidacy he said that his party would be interested in getting senior posts on parliamentary committees such as those for agriculture, foreign affairs, human rights and conflicts of interest.

Parliamentary committees

It seems that discussions to divide up the rest of the parliamentary posts will be no easier, since several parties are interested in the same positions.

The centre-right parties have been asked by Smer to nominate the chairs of the parliamentary committees for economy, agriculture, foreign affairs, and human rights and minorities, as well as the five supervisory committees that monitor conflicts of interests, the activities of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency, the two military intelligence agencies and the decisions of the National Security Authority (NBÚ) vetting agency.

The KDH announced that it is interested in the parliamentary committee for economy and the SIS supervisory committee. But according to statements by the other parties it may have to fight for the former with SaS and for the latter with the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ).

Moreover, the SDKÚ has expressed an interest in occupying the chairs of the committees for human rights and minorities, and foreign affairs, both of which are also being targeted by Most-Híd.

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