FEW have ever thought that Prime Minister Robert Fico’s government is exceedingly minority-friendly or that it is making Slovakia more open to diversity. However, the latest quirky political matrimony between the ruling Smer, a self-declared social democratic party, with the conservative Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), leaves very little doubt about the attitude of Slovakia’s government and part of the opposition towards minorities or the concept of a modern diverse society in general.
The sad thing about the Smer-KDH-fuelled revision to Slovakia’s constitution defining marriage as a “unique bond between a man and a woman” and introducing the ruling party’s remedies for the judiciary, including the disputed clearances for judges, is that it is born from cold political calculation and thus will bring no real benefit to those whom ‘traditional family’ activists think it will protect. It only makes members of the LGBTI community who would also like to consider Slovakia their home feel like second-class citizens.
How genuine were the intentions of the KDH and Smer? The Smer-KDH union to amend the constitution emerged during the presidential campaign, which saw Smer boss Fico and one-time KDH head Pavol Hrušovský running for the top state post and both failing to get elected. Hrušovský suffered an overwhelming and embarrassing defeat, picking up only 3.3 percent of the vote. Given the growing tension between gay rights activists and supporters of ‘traditional family’, which saw the government shelve adopting a strategy for the protection of minorities and human rights, the parties calculated that this issue might help them squeeze some extra votes.
Observers say that Smer is not as alien to the KDH as it may seem at first sight, recalling that back in 2006, the Christian Democrats led by Hrušovský had some inclination to negotiate over a coalition with Fico, the then victor of the parliamentary elections. The nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS) led by Ján Slota, often involved in hate speech against minorities, and the Movement for the Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) of the controversial Vladimír Mečiar proved closer to Fico’s heart at the time.
In parallel with the definition of marriage, Smer now would like to be seen as a tone-setter for the purification of the country’s judiciary, as not even the toughest political demagoguery could have continued claiming that everything is OK with the country’s courts. But the truth is that Smer’s one-time buddy, the HZDS, crossed the judiciary Rubicon when it nominated Štefan Harabin to the post of justice minister and then had him smoothly transit to the Supreme Court. Smer did very little over the past eight years to clean the courts of cronyism and corruption, and judiciary ethics watchdogs have some serious doubts about whether the current revisions to the constitution will do the job.
By combining two completely unrelated issues, marriage and the judiciary, and pushing the changes through with suspicious haste, Smer and the KDH cannot suppress doubts that the constitution is being held hostage to a political bargain.
Yes, the fact that the position of the Supreme Court president and chairman of the Judiciary Council, both held by Harabin at the moment, were separated, is a positive move. But the fact that across-the-board clearances for judges might be vulnerable to political influence as the boss of the vetting authority, the National Security Office (NBÚ), which will actually screen the judges, is nominated by the ruling Smer, is certainly reason for concern.
The revision to the constitution will not make “traditional families” more safe and even those who think that the KDH has done them a favour will soon realise that nothing is really going to change. The government would have done them more good with an effective approach to job creation, reducing the waste of public funds or reforming the education system so that their children can actually get a job once they graduate.
The revisions only deepen the gap between “us and them” or “the others”. Fico on several occasions made sure that minorities understand that “we did not establish our independent state in the first place for minorities” but mainly for what he called the “Slovak state-forming nation”, adding that he has detected what he called a “strange tendency to put forward the problems of minorities” to the disadvantage of the Slovak nation “as though Slovak men and women do not live in Slovakia at all”.
If the practice of narrowing the group of those who deserve the protection of the state continues, one day many of those now applauding these changes might just find themselves as outsiders as well.
5. Jun 2014 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová