BOREC (a top gun, ace) is a name that probably teaches you to get used to wordplays. But if someone starts toying with the idea of giving you a government ministry, that’s a new situation altogether.
So the head of the Slovak Bar Association, Tomáš Borec, must have felt some surprise when he, as a non-partisan widely perceived as being ideologically more on the right, was approached by the Smer party to take over the Justice Ministry.
For Robert Fico, the nomination makes sense for several reasons. First, cleaning up the judiciary is a crucial topic for future SDKÚ leader Lucia Žitňanská and KDH vice-chairman Daniel Lipšic, two of the opposition’s more visible faces. If Smer steals their agenda and appoints a widely-respected and difficult-to-criticise minister, the duo may have a tough time making their presence felt. Second, by installing an independent nominee, Smer can back off from some of its past positions regarding the judiciary.
Some of Žitňanská’s reforms could perhaps survive and even the disciplinary proceedings against controversial Supreme Court head Štefan Harabin could continue. Not that Smer would care much about any of this. But it is a way of appeasing moderate and pro-reform voters, enabling the party to dominate not only on the left but also in the political centre.
And third, the nomination is a gesture aimed at all the embassy folks who started having some serious worries about the state of the judiciary in the latter days of Fico’s first government and who even now are closely watching what steps the new cabinet will take.
The state of the courts, along with freedom of the press and the rights of the Hungarian minority were three areas that Fico had to explain to the international community during his first four years in office.
This time, he wants to make sure that everyone, at home and abroad, sees him as a likable borec. At least until circumstances force him to show his real face.