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The final act of the SDKÚ melodrama

RECENT developments within the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), a once reformist force that pushed three-time prime minister Vladimír Mečiar and his party out of office and into oblivion, is now itself on the verge of going the same route.

RECENT developments within the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), a once reformist force that pushed three-time prime minister Vladimír Mečiar and his party out of office and into oblivion, is now itself on the verge of going the same route.

The sinking ship, which earlier this year was abandoned even by party founders Mikuláš Dzurinda and Ivan Mikloš, has entered the realm of melodrama with exaggerated plot, emotions and stereotypical characters.

SDKÚ, which has given Slovakia two prime ministers, has been for some time drowning in self-pity failing to understand that not even cartoonists any longer find their petty political fights entertaining.

Plot twists include the party leadership locking out critics from the headquarters and the critics making claims that they later deny or cannot explain, might draw a sarcastic smile out of some voters, but entertainment is actually not among the major mission of politics.

Why is it worth looking into the story of the SDKÚ’s twilight? Perhaps because these traits can be found in several other parties in Slovakia’s politics, and many of these same characters are likely to spread the decay as they establish new parties that reproduce the same content, only under a different name.

Thus instead of building political traditions with readable parties that are going to be around for some time, politicians keep cloning new unreadable parties where the names are different but the faces stay the same. They often prefer a formation that can be stretched at will so that it embraces the liberals, conservatives and, if necessary to get power, extremists.

The last stage of the end of the SDKÚ, as former prime minister Iveta Radičová, a one-time member, called the recent developments in an interview, did not start at the special congress on September 27. What the congress has shown is that the SDKÚ, as it is today, has lost all of its instincts of self-preservation.

Maybe it is natural that some of the parties which emerged during the post-communist transition process and failed to get things right, especially around their party financing, handing state orders and maintaining relationships with shifty tycoons, are now gradually leaving the stage.

But the truth is that the public support for the ruling Smer, which still oscillates around 35 percent, has many of these same things wrong and is nowhere near heading into the political wilderness as yet.

The cliffhanger in this drama is that there aren’t many relevant political forces that would appeal to the deeply disappointed former SDKÚ voters, which wasted the potential of their trust. It also seems that what current chairman Pavol Frešo inherited from his predecessor Mikuláš Dzurinda is an inability to recognise when it is time to leave.

Not that it would save the party now if Frešo resigns, but the fact that he remains in charge after receiving 160 no votes from the pool of 223 delegates at his own party congress and with only 48 delegates backing him, speaks volumes.

The SDKÚ indeed has been struggling over the past two years to find its voice, with some of them even resorting to cheap populist issues usually grabbed by people from the far right. This voice will not be discovered by simply passing Frešo’s microphone to someone else, especially not in the badly disjointed right-wing arena.

If there is anything to learn from the decline of the SDKÚ, it is perhaps that past triumphs (including fixing the country’s economy and helping it to join the European Union and NATO) are not necessarily a predictor of future success. Failure to get the crucial ethical side of the politics business correct gives any party a limited shelf life. The current ruling party would be wise to take note of this.

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