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EDITORIAL

2012: The year of Gorilla

2012 WAS the year of Gorilla, which is not a newly created sign in Chinese astrology, but rather Slovakia’s byword for political corruption, named after the Gorilla file, a leaked document aspiring to describe the influence of tycoons on Slovak politics between 2005 and 2006. Its deafening roar during massive street rallies where people vented their frustration with murky politics, impacted the results of the parliamentary elections, and paradoxically brought Robert Fico and his Smer party back to power much sooner than his critics had hoped: only a little more than a year and half after he was ousted by the right-wing parties in 2010.

2012 WAS the year of Gorilla, which is not a newly created sign in Chinese astrology, but rather Slovakia’s byword for political corruption, named after the Gorilla file, a leaked document aspiring to describe the influence of tycoons on Slovak politics between 2005 and 2006. Its deafening roar during massive street rallies where people vented their frustration with murky politics, impacted the results of the parliamentary elections, and paradoxically brought Robert Fico and his Smer party back to power much sooner than his critics had hoped: only a little more than a year and half after he was ousted by the right-wing parties in 2010.

Those parties, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) as well as Most-Híd, have all contributed to making 2012 the year of Robert Fico: some by failing to secure a timely generational change among their upper ranks, some by giving birth to new political formations or by their failure to suppress their egos and some by their inability to adapt to their role in opposition.

But 2012 has also been the year of forgetting about Gorilla, and by December, frustration over low salaries was more likely to draw people onto the streets. Protest rallies by teachers and wage demands by nurses as well as physicians have made 2012 a year marked by frustration with the way the government has been managing the health-care and education sectors.

2012 has thus become the year of frustration: not only for nurses, physicians and teachers, but also for frustrated low-income families and older generations who live on meagre pensions and feel that the consolidation of the state budget is taking far too long. For many of the frustrated, any prospects for their own prosperity are becoming about as realistic as the slogans that trumpeted the triumph of the working class and world peace on communist billboards during the former May 1 rallies.

It is also the year of frustration for traditional right-wing voters who still feel betrayed by the massive waste of trust they had put into the government of Iveta Radičová, which died on that gloomy evening on October 11, 2011, when the government collapsed under the weight of its inability to pursue a consensus for the sake of its voters. For Radičová, 2012 has became a year of departure from active politics, while opinion polls kept including her in surveys about the public’s taste for a future president. She said she has had enough. And perhaps at least half of the nation would like to say the same about the way politicians have been running this country, or would at least like to see more people going into politics for reasons other than making money or extending their existing financial strongholds.

Unfortunately, 2012 will not enter the history books as the year that shone more light on party financing or a more trusted judiciary; it will not be the year of Štefan Harabin retiring from the Supreme Court with all his baggage.

Nor will it be the year of a new political leader who is able to say the right words and do the right things for the right reasons. Daniel Lipšic, who abandoned the KDH to set up a new party, said he envisions a two-digit result in the next elections for his group, even though there aren’t that many people standing behind him who share his belief. Despite the SDKÚ having picked a new party leader in Pavol Frešo, it seems that it has been struggling ever since with its choice, thus deepening the wounds that its former leader Mikuláš Dzurinda left behind.

All this could be contrasted with Fico’s Smer scoring almost 50 percent of the votes in a recent poll that the Median polling agency conducted from mid October until mid November. Even if there was a considerable margin of error, results like these still reflect the reality of Slovakia’s political scene.

The most frustrated might say that the only thing that could bring an immediate change is if the hoax around the impending ‘end of the world’ attributed to the Mayan Calendar, or the occultists who say that periods of agony and decay are followed by times of revival and purification, turn out to be true. Yet, there are no immediate purifications or in-depth changes in sight, nor any long-lasting ones, at least not based on the events of 2012.

Thus one enters 2013 with the hope that along with further austerity measures (which given the nature of recent economic predictions and some of the laws passed by the Fico government will continue to be a part of life in Slovakia), there will also be more effort on the part of the government to make people feel that the extra cash the state will squeeze from their purses will not simply trickle into the pockets of those close to power.

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