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EDITORIAL

Flying over the cuckoo's nest

DISPOSABLE political parties that serve as elevators for people cursed with hyper-egos to make it into politics are sad political stories, as are parties which act as adventure camps for those who have tried everything from bungee jumping to crocodile hunting but still fancy a go at politics. While such parties sooner or later follow the path to political oblivion, they stay long enough to deepen the cynicism of voters.

DISPOSABLE political parties that serve as elevators for people cursed with hyper-egos to make it into politics are sad political stories, as are parties which act as adventure camps for those who have tried everything from bungee jumping to crocodile hunting but still fancy a go at politics. While such parties sooner or later follow the path to political oblivion, they stay long enough to deepen the cynicism of voters.

Critics of the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party have long since added Richard Sulík’s ‘liberals’, as they like to be known, to the list of disposable parties. Yet those who wanted to believe that SaS was more than just the plaything of a couple of businesspeople who wanted to try out politics must be quite confused about what is now happening to the party. Just two years ago its leaders were promoting themselves as a new generation of politicians without any political baggage.

Unfortunately, it did not take long for them to accumulate just such a burden – one which they will now have a tough time shedding.

For example, Sulík, the party’s founder and boss, had some explaining to do last year after a set of covertly recorded videos, known as the Sasanka file, revealed that he was briefing controversial businessman Marián Kočner about the tortuous process of choosing a new general prosecutor at the time Sulík was serving as speaker of parliament in late 2010. Sulík also had Kočner ‘screen’ some of Sulík’s own SaS candidates before the 2010 election.

Under the government of Iveta Radičová, wiretapping of journalists’ telephone calls by the Defence Ministry’s counterintelligence arm, the Military Defence Intelligence (VOS), cost SaS nominee Ľubomír Galko his job as defence minister. Galko, who argued the wiretaps were performed legally and were intended to uncover criminal activity, continued to enjoy the support of his party – and was even rewarded with the number four spot on the party’s candidate list at the general election in March last year. Again, one would expect more self-reflection from a party claiming to represent a new generation of politicians.

Now the party seems to be in turmoil after Sulík was re-elected as leader over challenger Jozef Kollár by a narrow margin of 13 votes. Former economy minister Juraj Miškov, who supported Kollár in his campaign for the top job, was swiftly fired as deputy leader. Kollár said that he would remain in SaS if Sulík did not “exterminate” his supporters – and Sulík initially promised he would not. However, Kamil Krnáč, one of the party’s board members, has interpreted the move to purge Miškov as “extermination” and is quitting the party, claiming that it no longer stands for the fight against corruption. Kollár and Miškov might also leave.

The right-wing voter is probably not so much confused as weary and tired of this scrapping. To add to the confusion, Galko posted what he called a little “Aesopian tale” online, which also appeared on the website of the Sme daily, citing the cuckoo as “the example of perfect parasitism”, suggesting that the bird “really lays eggs in foreign nests” and as soon as the cuckoo chick hatches it “cruelly throws the other birds out of the nest” – but added that it need not always be so, and that sometimes the “original” chicks can protect the nest from the alien intruder.

By now, few voters will care who Galko’s cuckoo is or which hatchlings survive: instead, they will be just a little more sceptical about the reasons why people enter politics.

There are much sadder political stories than that of SaS: other parties have been used by their leaders to make a mint just as their performance in politics has produced some of the most infamous abuses and dodgy deals that have afflicted – and continue to afflict – the state coffers.

Ironically, one such party, the Slovak National Party (SNS), which fortunately failed to make it into parliament at the last election, is now trying to expel its honorary chairman, Ján Slota, due to what his critics call uneconomic handling of the party’s property.

SNS nominees mishandled much more than just the party’s property – and Slota’s eventual expulsion will be scant comfort to the Slovak public. But at least Slota’s boomerang has come back to hit the party, which now claims its property comprises “two computers and two cars”.

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