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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Vrece zemiakov

“EVEN a sack of potatoes (vrece zemiakov) could beat him,” quipped Robert Fico after Marian Kotleba defeated Ľudovít Kaník, the right’s candidate to head Banská Bystrica Region, in the first round of the elections. Two weeks later, when the neo-Nazi crushed Smer’s Vladimír Maňka in the second round, the prime minister was short of metaphors. The PM did manage to blame the right and the media for the result. But that will hardly change the fact that this is a major blow to the ruling party and its chairman.

“EVEN a sack of potatoes (vrece zemiakov) could beat him,” quipped Robert Fico after Marian Kotleba defeated Ľudovít Kaník, the right’s candidate to head Banská Bystrica Region, in the first round of the elections. Two weeks later, when the neo-Nazi crushed Smer’s Vladimír Maňka in the second round, the prime minister was short of metaphors. The PM did manage to blame the right and the media for the result. But that will hardly change the fact that this is a major blow to the ruling party and its chairman.

Firstly, it shows that Fico is not infallible. He predicted that “Vladimír Maňka will win the second round overwhelmingly”, and did not visit the region once to campaign. Such misjudgment is rare to see with the PM.

Secondly, this shows strong resentment towards Smer. Kotleba’s voters had a wide variety of motives – from disliking the Roma to disliking “the system”. But a reluctance to vote for Smer’s candidate even in the face of a political catastrophe makes for a good lesson before next year, when three elections will be held – presidential, European and local.

And thirdly, it makes an announcement of Fico’s presidential candidature much more complicated. Smer has not suffered such a huge defeat as last weekend in years, which does not create a favourable atmosphere. And the party itself must be enormously nervous at the thought that its most popular figure and unquestioned leader will leave for the presidential palace. Will anyone else be able to win elections and hold the party together? That has to be on the minds of both rank and file members as well as the oligarchs in the background. Fico can usually do as he pleases. But rarely does he have to stand up against such a strong coalition of his own.

Time is running out. Smer now only has a couple of weeks to decide who will run for president. Will it be Fico? Or some sack of potatoes they will convince at the very last minute?

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