THE CHRISTIAN Democratic Movement (KDH) met in a national congress on June 23 but resolved to accept the leadership set-up proposed by the party council earlier in the month. Most notably, delegates re-elected Ján Figeľ as chairman – he was the only candidate, and appeared unaffected by the uproar in June over the so-called golden parachutes awarded to state nominees while he was transport minister – and supported all the other official leadership candidates that had been suggested.
Delegates did not approve changes to the movement’s structure proposed by Radoslav Procházka, a relatively high-profile MP who had earlier criticised the KDH leadership.
Procházka had said that approval of the changes would have been “a colossal success”, but that he knew he was unlikely to get sufficient support, the Sme daily reported.
Journalists and observers, in pointed references to how closely the congress’s decisions matched the outcomes desired by the party leadership, wrote that the only unexpected event at the meeting held in Ružomberok was a fire on the roof of the media room – but even that was soon extinguished.
“The expectations were not very big, so they have in fact been fulfilled,” political scientist Miroslav Kusý told The Slovak Spectator.
He added that the results of the congress would not bring the party more stability, as was claimed by several KDH members, but would only deepen its decline.
“I will be a resolute but responsible chairman,” Figeľ said, as quoted by the TASR newswire, after the leadership vote, in which he received 261 of 324 votes, adding that he would “adhere to my principles but at the same time be kind within relationships”.
The delegates also elected all the approved nominees for the six deputy chair posts: MPs Pavol Abrhan, Ján Hudacký and Július Brocka, university teacher Miroslava Szitová, former director of the Slovak Tourist Board (SACR) Peter Belinský and economic analyst Miloš Moravčík, TASR wrote.
Pavol Hrušovský, a former leader of the party and now an MP, said that Figeľ’s re-election was the right decision for the future of Slovakia’s politics, as well as a sign of the party’s internal unity.
“The party has the confidence of Ján Figeľ and Ján Figeľ has the confidence of the party,” he said, as quoted by TASR.
However, Kusý described Figeľ as a kind of fall-back, stating that the party does not have anyone better at the moment, since one of Figeľ’s possible rivals, MP and former interior minister Daniel Lipšic, quit the KDH in late May while another, Procházka, had declared he would not run for any leadership role.
Kusý added that any possible rivals to Figeľ had been “set aside” by the assembly. “The plenum clearly showed it would not support them,” he told The Slovak Spectator.
Party keeps rules unchanged
The delegates did not only vote for the KDH’s new leadership, but also decided on changes in the party's leadership structure that were proposed by Procházka. He had suggested reducing the number of deputy chairs from six to four and allowing the chairs of the regional branches of the KDH to automatically become members of the party’s top leadership.
“It [the proposal] pursues only one direction,” said Procházka at the congress, as quoted by TASR: “To unite and concentrate the policy-making of KDH so it will be as effective and successful as possible.”
He added that his proposal was not intended to harm anyone.
“If it was passed it would completely reduce the space for baseless competition and rivalry between the regions,” said Procházka, as quoted by TASR.
However, delegates did not approve his proposals, TASR wrote.
Figeľ said that Procházka’s proposed changes did not pass because they had not been preceded by extensive debate at the regional level.
“I will set up a committee that will be in charge of drafting party regulations that will ensure that all proposals are discussed across the regions,” Figeľ said, as quoted by TASR.
Kusý, however, said he did not expect this committee to lead to any changes, commenting that if delegates had refused to pass them at this session, no amount of discussion would change their minds. He told The Slovak Spectator that the whole session proved that the plenum “is very cautious, strictly conservative, and insists on certain values”.
Developing a platform
The failure in passing the changes at the congress does not appear to have deterred Procházka from his efforts to reform the KDH. He said that what is important is that the party has started to openly discuss change.
He added that he would continue with the internal revival of the party by establishing a platform with the “ambition of gradual preparation of alternatives to the current leadership”, Sme reported. Procházka did not give any further details.
Kusý commented that Procházka would have trouble finding people to join his platform since the membership base of the party does not want change. Though Figeľ said that there would be more resolution and criticism within the party, the political scientist said he considered this to be just a form of rhetoric which only “leads to a kind of satisfaction with the current state”.
He even predicted that Procházka would eventually leave the KDH since he would not be able to change the “inert atmosphere” in the party.