THE FIRST group shot of the new government will probably provide some answers to those people who have been hoping to witness Robert Fico’s metamorphosis into a reasonable politician. Given the huge power he has been handed, the majority of Slovakia’s electorate must hope or believe that Fico knows what he is doing and with whom he is going to do it. Now the political dance-floor completely belongs to his Smer ensemble, plus perhaps anyone who will join them for this four-year waltz. The opposition will occasionally play a supporting role – or the opposite, by trying to whistle over the music they do not like.
The media has been keenly pairing ministries and candidates, some for their loyalty to the party and some for their previous experience. Robert Kaliňák emerged unscathed, at least in the eyes of his own party, from what purported to be transcripts of a conversation between him and a reporter at the Pravda daily suggesting that Kaliňák instructed the journalist regarding a story critical of the then defence minister.
While the outgoing government was willing to issue an official apology to Hedviga Malinová-Žáková, the ethnic Hungarian who reported that she had been assaulted in Nitra in 2006 apparently because she had spoken Hungarian in public, it is unlikely that Kaliňák will ever join any such initiative. It was Kaliňák who, in September 2006, told journalists that Malinová had fabricated the attack and directly accused her of lying. He has since restated this claim.
Nevertheless, there is no element of surprise in Kaliňák coming back as interior minister and those who hope for a positive surprise regarding his attitude towards this case, which has at times paralysed Slovak-Hungarian relations, may find they are waiting in vain. His critics will probably settle just for no negative surprises, since the ministry he oversees faces such weighty challenges as the investigation into the Gorilla file.
The outgoing Deputy Prime Minister for Minorities and Human Rights, Rudolf Chmel, a nominee of Most-Híd, apologised to Malinová-Žáková on Human Rights Day last year, saying that “the fact that we let her be literally tortured for over four years is a big exclamation mark”. His predecessor Dušan Čaplovič, who according to his critics operated in a ‘virtual post’ when serving as the guardian of minority rights, is unlikely to echo him, if for no other reason than that he has been tipped for the education minister’s job.
The education ministry, faced with an ever-growing unemployment rate among graduates and with many schools being notoriously detached from the needs of the labour market, would perhaps benefit from a non-partisan nominee with his or her finger on the pulse of the schools system and the market rather than a party ‘pillar’, as Fico calls his most loyal and long-serving colleagues.
One-time agriculture minister Stanislav Becík made his biggest impression on the memory of readers of this newspaper with his surreal week-long journey across Slovakia in 2009 in a horse-drawn carriage festooned with banners in support of rural development, while quoting his own rather bad poetry in celebration of farmers. If the media is correct, Becík, despite then being a nominee of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), could this time get the agriculture portfolio as a Smer candidate.
But none of these ministerial speculations would be as controversial as that of Martin Glváč, who is being mentioned as the possible justice minister. As the SITA newswire reported, even some Smer members are worried that his connections to several business and financial groups could make him vulnerable to criticism. According to the Sme daily, Glváč, the boss of Smer’s Bratislava branch, has admitted having contacts with the murdered boss of the Bratislava underworld, Jozef Svoboda.
Glváč said, as quoted by Sme: “I have known him; I have met him several times and I am not ashamed of it.” Smer has already, though indirectly, by picking the HZDS as its coalition partner in 2006, brought Štefan Harabin into politics – only for him to return to lead the Supreme Court, along with all his baggage, including disciplinary proceedings against his critics and alleged contacts with a drug boss.
Since Glváč’s nomination had not been confirmed by the time The Slovak Spectator went to print, we can still hope that Smer will exercise caution when picking the next justice minister – and choose someone with the courage to continue the reforms that Lucia Žitňanská started, and not reverse them. If, instead of opening up additional windows in the stuffy house of the judiciary, Smer closes even those which Žitňanská has opened, then more things risk being suffocated than just the public’s trust in the judiciary.