OVER the course of a prolonged several-month labour, Slovakia’s right-wing has given birth to multiple children: Alfa, NOVA and the People’s Platform. The parents then dressed their kids in fancy new outfits, such as the Memorandum for Responsible Politics; Strong society, simple state; and New politics: we trust people, with the hope of making them appear more adorable to voters. The problem is that the voters are sceptical and have difficulty believing that these new kids on the block will somehow rock the right wing back to its former strength. Besides, some of these kids are actually just their parents in disguise.
Maybe there are good intentions behind the façade of recycled slogans, but the electorate has not yet recovered from the blow it received when the right wing wasted the massive opportunity it was given in 2010 when Slovaks voted out Robert Fico and opened the door for the government of Iveta Radičová. It will actually take something more than a manifesto or a platform to win back the hearts of those who grew disillusioned with right-wing politics.
People might just be losing track of all the new political formations, which over the past year or so have been claiming to be the revitalising shot of fresh blood in the old veins of Slovakia’s political scene - the bearers of political change promising a new style of politics.
The problem is that the egos of these new leaders often became so inflated that they scared away some of the more promising party members, turning the whole enterprise into a one-man show, which indeed is a rather old story in Slovakia’s political playbook.
Also, too many new short-lived parties were established entirely around the personal ambitions of a single politician, who suddenly clashed with the mother party and needed a new outlet to float his or her ambitions. This is one of the sources of mistrust among the voters. Some politicians left their mother parties because they felt they would have to stand in line for too long before the old party boss retires and it would be their turn to rule, if ever. Also, whenever a political party starts losing voter support, a clone is likely to emerge to which some of the members of the decaying party will relocate.
The mushrooming of new parties in Slovakia usually occurs after key party congresses, when the leadership for a four-year term is elected, or around parliamentary elections, when still-born political groupings dream of miracle results even if an ambitious leader, a website, and a couple of activists, are all that is behind the party.
One of the problems with the party clones is that they evolve around people who have already been in politics for some time, and voters see in them merely a variation on the same theme. Yet it is quite difficult for voters to orient themselves through slogans and party programmes since there is a real mess in Slovakia regarding what is left and what is right. Thus one has to figure out what ‘solidarity’ means when Robert Fico utters the word, and what the People’s Platform refer to when they say they offer “solidarity with the weak and disadvantaged”.
Perhaps a good beginning for the right wing would be to reach an agreement over something, perhaps a presidential candidate or the course of a vote in parliament. Or, if for one moment they stop worrying about scoring more points through populist claims than the other right-wing dwarfs, and instead demonstrate some stability and an ability to reach agreements for the sake of the voter and not for the sake of their own political future.
The emerging new ‘leaders’, or those who claim to be by dint of some metamorphosis, have managed to define part of the problem when painting a gloomy image of the state of the right wing and the political scene; a scene which is much friendlier to oligarchs than the public, and which should ideally exercise power through its elected officials. Yet somehow, after defining it, society prefers to start living in a post-oligarchic era, but does not trust that the bridge the right wing claims to be building will carry its own weight.
With that said, Slovakia needs a new generation of politicians who will be able to actually live up to their fancy memoranda and programmes offering a new political culture, but far too many who once claimed to be those new politicians turned out to be buffoons who could not even contain their own egos, much less put forth an agenda for the public good.