SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Maketa

THE FIGHT over a life-sized cardboard cutout (maketa) of Robert Fico wearing a football jersey and a sign saying “He gave the country to oligarchs” was only one of the fun parts of this week’s attempt to bring down the government. There was also Smer’s decision to force the opposition to debate the issue during night hours and Fico’s refusal to listen to what they had to say. Or the 100 empty bottles of alcohol a cleaning lady allegedly found in Smer’s quarters after one of the night sessions (not that you would need any evidence to see that many Smer MPs were drunk).

THE FIGHT over a life-sized cardboard cutout (maketa) of Robert Fico wearing a football jersey and a sign saying “He gave the country to oligarchs” was only one of the fun parts of this week’s attempt to bring down the government. There was also Smer’s decision to force the opposition to debate the issue during night hours and Fico’s refusal to listen to what they had to say. Or the 100 empty bottles of alcohol a cleaning lady allegedly found in Smer’s quarters after one of the night sessions (not that you would need any evidence to see that many Smer MPs were drunk).

The episode sums up two important traits of the Slovak parliament: its propensity for scandal and its political obscurity. In the 1990s MPs for Vladimír Mečiar’s HZDS unconstitutionally stripped a renegade from their party of his mandate. The man who presided over this outrage as speaker of parliament was Ivan Gašparovič – the current head of state. In the early 2000s Mikuláš Dzurinda’s government was able to stay in power for months only thanks to the support of a small group of former opposition MPs who suddenly changed their minds and discovered a liking for the ruling coalition. Corruption has often been mentioned as a possible explanation. And the list could go on.

Throughout the years, the main role of parliament has been to provide a majority for the government. But all major initiatives, deals and policies have been made elsewhere – for most of the country’s history by “coalition councils” made up of top representatives of ruling parties. And now, at Smer’s headquarters. The MPs are expected to do as they are told. Before most votes the bosses of party caucuses even show their colleagues thumbs up or down, so that they don’t mix it up.

The Czechs, who are just ahead of their parliamentary elections, are currently in a heated debate over the nature of their political system. The strong position their first directly elected president Miloš Zeman has scared some into thinking that parliamentary democracy could be replaced by presidential rule, with disregard for political compromise and more authoritarian traits. Slovakia doesn’t need to worry about any of this, even if Robert Fico, as the country’s most trusted and influential political figure, decides to run for president. Here, parliament has always been just a maketa.

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