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DON’T get confused by the sound of it. Buspruh is not a long lost pal of Beelzebub and Belial. Although many Bratislavans feel that it, too, has come straight from hell.

DON’T get confused by the sound of it. Buspruh is not a long lost pal of Beelzebub and Belial. Although many Bratislavans feel that it, too, has come straight from hell.

The new ‘bus lanes’ tested in the city’s streets have caused traffic jams and confusion beyond its borders – slowing down morning traffic even on nearby highways.

It is just one example of how one idea coming from the municipal level can easily have an impact on an entire region or the whole country.

Hence the importance of local politics, which have in the past been a testing ground for new ideas, political alliances, and candidates: Košice mayor Rudolf Schuster went on to become the first directly elected president; former speaker of parliament Richard Sulík started his public career as boss of the capital’s waste-disposal company.

That is why next year’s regional elections are so important. Firstly, it will be the first test of Smer’s strength after its crushing victory in this year’s parliamentary vote.

Will the tax increases introduced in the name of consolidation have any impact, or will Smer repeat its success from 2009, when it won seven of the eight regional chairmanships?

The second reason is that it will show whether the divided right is capable of any sort of cooperation.

SDKÚ boss Pavol Frešo is currently the only right-wing regional head.

Any rival from the opposition camp could lower the incumbent’s chances, especially if the centre-right parties don’t unite, even for the second-round run-off.

The third reason why the elections are important is that they could be a test of new, unified election rules, which should replace the current chaos in which each vote has different rules for campaigning and financing.

Talk of a new law has been in the air for years; it remains to be seen if anything will actually happen this time.

Maybe the 2013 elections will bring more transparency to the election process and new hope for the right.

But the chances are devilishly low.

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