WHEN the heroine of a popular fairytale is asked to appear both dressed and naked, she complies by wearing a net (sieť). Fate may be trying to pull off the same trick with the long-sought new leader of the local political right. It’s way too early to make any calls, but the results of the first opinion poll after the presidential elections give Radoslav Procházka and his Sieť party a decent chance of playing a significant role within the fragmented opposition camp.
The emergence of a front-runner is much anticipated, as Robert Fico needs a clear and credible alternative. But there are two reasons to be cautious about where Procházka’s project is heading and some fear that in some respects he both is and isn’t the leader everyone is waiting for.
The first concern is financing. Procházka declares that his recent presidential campaign cost a fourth of what Andrej Kiska spent, which was €1 million. Monitoring agencies are weary of releasing media-spending estimates, but expert guesses suggest the real number could be two to three times higher. Advisors close to Kiska say the former KDH member spent nearly as much as their candidate.
The question is where did the money come from? Unlike Kiska, Procházka does not have enough of his own resources. And unlike Fico, he does not have the backing of a strong (and rich) party.
History shows that hidden donors can turn out to be a huge political liability - both in terms of the scandals they can cause and the favours they can demand. The second big unknown is what political goals Procházka has. He started off as a Christian democrat. The other prominent member of his party - former SDKÚ MP Miroslav Beblavý - comes from a liberal and pro-European background. In the EP elections Procházka is endorsing the eurosceptical and radically liberal SaS party, which brought down Iveta Radičová’s government in 2011. What sense to make of it all?
Procházka is one of the brightest and most promising politicians to have appeared in a long time. It would be a shame if it turned out that Sieť only aims to do the same as Smer - catch as many voters as possible.