“I WARN you against failure [zlyhanie]. Not only because harsh, repressive and personal measures will follow, but especially because the public would now be much more sensitive to a corruption scandal than before.”
If you are trying to understand Slovak politics, this line from Robert Fico’s recent speech at a party congress bears several valuable lessons. Firstly, corruption really is such an inherent part of local public life that it is necessary to remind your colleagues that it is not something that is recommended.
Secondly, there really were times when no repressive measures were taken against those who siphon off public funds or steal. In fact, that’s the way it has always been. Despite hundreds of documented cases of corruption, no high-level official has ever been convicted.
And thirdly, this time the government is really serious about tackling the problem.
No, just kidding. Fico is not lying when he says he does not need any scandals. But he has more reliable means of assuring that than leaving it up to the conscience of his party members. Smer already controls the secret service and the police. Despite promises to the opposition, it has appointed its nominee to the Public Procurement Office (ÚVO). It will soon get the chance to elect a general prosecutor. And it is now blocking the election of an opposition candidate for the head of the Supreme Audit Office. Fico pretends that he is still ready to give the post to the right. But three unsuccessful rounds of voting indicate that this is not happening. If you add the fact that the opposition is in tatters, there really is no one to look over the government’s shoulders.
When former PM Iveta Radičová rejected Fico’s candidate for ÚVO director, a post also initially promised to the opposition, he called her an “incompetent liar”. It now seems he himself is no friend of the truth. Instead, he is well aware that the only scandals Smer will have are those that they will not be able to cover up. And he is doing everything he can to prevent that failure.