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EDITORIAL

Waiting for the fog to clear

IF ANYONE is confused over what is actually happening within the country’s right-wing parties, it’s not necessarily due to a lack of insight into Slovak politics. People who speak languages other than Slovak can find comfort in the fact that the way some Slovak politicians act and the things they say or don’t say (even though they should), is an ongoing source of confusion even for those who face no language barrier.

IF ANYONE is confused over what is actually happening within the country’s right-wing parties, it’s not necessarily due to a lack of insight into Slovak politics. People who speak languages other than Slovak can find comfort in the fact that the way some Slovak politicians act and the things they say or don’t say (even though they should), is an ongoing source of confusion even for those who face no language barrier.

While one can routinely diagnose enduring signs of post-election depression among the parties, proposed cures range from finding a bulky leader who can steal the limelight from Robert Fico, to feeding a starved right-wing body back to health, to luring back departed voters, to the idea of unifying the small parties under a programme of new ideas, to a joint presidential candidate or anything that could glue these fragmented political bodies back together.
In fact, political scientist Grigorij Mesežnikov, president of the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), listed as one of the factors contributing to the fragmentation of the right wing the fact that it includes several personalities with strong political ambitions who are now “testing their chances”.

Yet the truth is that the right-wing voter might not really like being a testing sample for a politician’s ego, especially if the strong political ambitions are totally unreadable. One is also tempted to ask: wasn’t it a clash of raging egos that brought down the centre-right government of Iveta Radičová in October 2011 in a vote over the EU bailout mechanism?

The early elections in March 2012, in which Robert Fico took the country in a landslide victory, was the price that three of the country’s four former ruling coalition parties had to pay in return for Fico and Smer’s support enlarging the eurozone’s temporary bailout fund after the fourth coalition party, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), refused to give its assent.

Perhaps it was precisely this wasted trust that voters had invested in the parties, which then simply handed power to Fico, is what makes those with right-wing sentiments feel rather cold when it comes to expressing preferences for people or political bodies active in the right-wing political garden. Perhaps what they need to do to restore voters’ trust is to ensure the exit of those who compromised this trust, and keep those who actually work for the public’s benefit. Inflated egos testing their aspirations within or outside the parties might not actually be what voters want.

Many say that the right wing needs new leaders with new visions who, instead of parroting solutions that worked in the late 1990s but which by 2013 have became hollow shells that resonate only with core believers, would actually offer clear, doable concepts with trustworthy plans.

It’s not that nothing is happening within the right-wing parties; quite the contrary. People are becoming increasingly confused about who is establishing which political formation with whom and for what purpose.

The Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Most-Híd have “united” under the People’s Platform, however the strength of this union will be tested by conflicting party interests, for example the search for a joint presidential candidate. Yet, SDKÚ deputies Lucia Žitňanská and Miroslav Beblavý will be touring Slovakia to hold a series of extra-party discussions under their ‘We Are Creating Slovakia’ initiative, and though they say they do not intend to quit the party, their boss Pavol Frešo has not been at all enthusiastic about their move.
Daniel Lipšic, along with one other MP, quit the KDH soon after last year’s general election to set up a new party, New Majority (NOVA). His close ally Radoslav Procházka remained in the movement, which he went on to criticise for its direction before establishing his own platform, named Alfa. Now Procházka is leaving the KDH and sending out signals that he is considering running for president in 2014.

“I understand presidential elections as one of the tools of a wider effort for generational, mental and moral renewal of Slovak politics,” said Procházka in an interview with the economic weekly Trend.

For his own sake, Procházka should lay out clearly where he is heading, with whom and why, otherwise he will be yet another ambitious but ‘unreadable’ politician waiting for his moment in the limelight.

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