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EDITORIAL

The resignation game

PRIME Minister Robert Fico has got the attention of media by suggesting that a military conflict in Ukraine has a 70-percent probability. “I am talking about a big military conflict,” Fico heralded, insinuating that he has a bigger conflict on his mind than that of Russia and Ukraine. Yet, renowned foreign policy expert Alexander Duleba of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association said he does not expect the situation in Slovakia’s eastern neighbour to get any worse.

PRIME Minister Robert Fico has got the attention of media by suggesting that a military conflict in Ukraine has a 70-percent probability. “I am talking about a big military conflict,” Fico heralded, insinuating that he has a bigger conflict on his mind than that of Russia and Ukraine. Yet, renowned foreign policy expert Alexander Duleba of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association said he does not expect the situation in Slovakia’s eastern neighbour to get any worse.

Fico referred to some trusted sources in Germany, instantly evoking parallels with former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar, who in his own heyday liked to refer to exclusive sources to support bombastic statements about threats even to his own life.

Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák, as a Slovak Television and Radio (RTVS) video has shown, refused to comment on Fico’s claims, suggesting that Fico is a grown man and probably stands behind what he says. After more media nagging, he told the journalists that they have a hang-up on the prime minister and he cannot really solve that.

Despite Fico rolling out the big guns with his talk of military conflict, it is hardly enough to divert public attention from the continuing scandal surrounding the overpriced purchase of a computer tomography device by a financially ailing hospital, which has already cost the heads of several high-ranking Smer officials.

He also said that he might just as well resign next June if protests organised by the opposition continue, unleashing speculations both about his political future as well as his motivation for saying so.

“Our patience has some boundaries,” Fico said, in an apparent response to street protests that from a couple hundred participants in mid-November swelled to nearly 5,000 people. “I can imagine that I will come to President Andrej Kiska in June saying that I am willing to submit my resignation.”

Fico continued that it will be a chance for a number of opposition politicians, naming Daniel Lipšic of NOVA, Igor Matovič of Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) and independent MP Alojz Hlina, to show what kind of alternative they can offer. He was quick to name what he thought the alternative was: chaos.

Given Fico’s political profile, it is hard to imagine that he would voluntarily give up power. If one was to trust what the prime minister says, he would long ago have been in political retirement.

“I can assure you that in 2014 I will no longer be in politics,” said Fico in 2009, as quoted by the Sme daily, adding that it is not good if one is a prime minister and chairman of a party at the same time.

Fico remains in both jobs.

Observers were quick to suggest that Fico might only be trying to scare the opposition or even the public, as even hard-core Fico critics might find it rather difficult to pick a party over to whom they might opt handing over the country’s fate.

It also seems that the division and multiplication of parties on the right side of the political spectrum is unstoppable. It seems apparent that whenever any two politicians clash within a single party, there appears a very real prospect a new party will be formed within days.

It would no doubt weigh very heavy on Fico if he resigned at a time when he and his party continued to lack any real challenger.

Further discouragement might come in the realisation that sacrificing his right-hand man Pavol Paška, who recently resigned as speaker of parliament, was not enough to close the book on long-standing suspicions of corruption in the health care sector.

Still, Fico might simply be tired, as the past couple weeks were not really the best ones for him and his party. He and his government got another slap in the face on December 4, when the Constitutional Court ruled that former president Ivan Gašparovič violated Jozef Čentéš’s basic rights when he was lawfully elected by the parliament to the post of prosecutor general, but Gašparovič refused to appoint him. Fico boldly backed Gašparovič throughout the process as the Čentéš case turned into a public trauma.

The protests, Paška’s resignation and the court ruling are nonetheless good for the country as it increasingly seems the average citizen is less accepting of corruption and cronyism as the status quo. For now, there is still hope for the rule of law, even if it still comes too late.

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