Tomfoolery began almost immediately after this right-wing zealot took office in Banská Bystrica’s region in November 2013. Still, events have taken a more amateurish turn in the first three months of this year. Kotleba is alleged to force regional employees to send 20 percent of their salaries to his bank account and he is suspected of holding several other accounts for accepting “gifts”. He also hired his wife to oversee employee complaints at the region’s road administration. More recently, Prime Minister Robert Fico said he would consider stripping Kotleba of his power to administer European Union funds, citing the governor’s inability to do so effectively.
“We don’t see any reason why people in the city of Banská Bystrica and in the region should suffer due to the fact that somebody has been elected experimentally as governor,” Fico said.
I do, the people in Banská Bystrica voted to have an experimental governor, and got exactly what they asked for. During his campaign for governor Kotleba openly expressed his disdain for the EU and it was no secret that he lacked experience in public administration. In the run-off round the choice could not have been clearer for voters, Kotleba’s inexperience and anti-Brussels views or Smer incumbent Vladimír Maňka, a member of the European Parliament. Voters chose the former.
They cannot now be surprised that their democratically elected governor has opted not to use EU funds to modernise 22 of the region’s schools or to renovate two facilities that care for the disabled. What do they think Kotleba means when he says the EU is “liquidating everything good that has been in the region”? In this case deeds match words and Kotleba is doing exactly what he said he would do – shunning Brussels bureaucracy, and money.
Fico’s comments are about political posturing more than reality. It seems impossible that the government could strip powers from one regional governor, while allowing the other seven to keep them. Still, the premier’s statement is strange as it gives the impression that Kotleba was forced upon the people of Banská Bystrica against their will.
It is true that just 25 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote in the gubernatorial run-off round, but just as actions have consequences so does inaction. Through a combination of incompetence and hollow ideology Kotleba is costing his region millions of euros that could improve the lives of people who live there. If he is breaking the law he should be prosecuted, but he should not be punished for doing exactly what voters said they wanted him to do. This is not a case of false advertising.
If the people of Banská Bystrica don’t like things, it’s entirely within their power to change leaders. If Fico doesn’t like it, he might do well to consider what his old pal Pavol Paška used to say amid complaints by the opposition – win an election.
6. Mar 2015 at 6:30 | Benjamin Cunningham