Well that didn’t take long. On Monday night, less than 48 hours after it became known that a fascist party had won seats in parliament, the first public demonstration against extremism took place in Bratislava. Over a thousand people attended, walked through the streets in silent protest, and went home with a slightly better feeling in their bellies.
This is not to belittle their efforts, nor to mock their gentle hearts. But repairing the damage these elections have done to Slovakia’s fragile democracy will take more than marching in Bratislava’s most privileged neighbourhood. It will take a long-term, nationwide campaign against extremism that visits schools, dominates media and resonates on social networks. It will require the vocal participation of many disparate groups, from sexual minorities to the church, from Roma to Muslims to Jews to mainstream Slovaks, from Holocaust survivors to the children of anti-communist dissidents. And in the end it will take many times more than a thousand people, because the true target of this protest is not Kotleba’s rabble, but the bitter, hopeless, cynical people who elected them.
And if Nazis were the only problem this country had on its plate, they might in the end be vanquished. But trouble, as the proverb goes, comes in threes. And before long, the brown threat will likely be overshadowed by more immediate dilemmas, such as the fact that the next government – assuming it doesn’t include Smer – will be shorter of bureaucratic talent than any in recent memory. Thousands of public service functions will be up for grabs, from the secret service to foreign embassies to municipal offices, which by tradition will be assigned to coalition parties on the basis of their election results. And there’s the rub – the lion’s share will go to SaS and OLaNO, which remain catastrophically short of experts; meanwhile the SNS has never pretended to care about professional state management, and Boris Kollár’s Family will have enough difficulty just mastering the rules of parliamentary procedure (especially the part on immunity from prosecution). We may yet come to mourn the demise of the KDH and SDKÚ, and to yearn for the Golden Era of Gorilla kleptocracy.
The third and most serious trouble can only be glimpsed on the horizon, but it has to do with what happens if a right-wing coalition fails. And in failing, further damages people’s already weakened faith in liberal democracy. Which is why it is the duty of every normal citizen of this country to help the next government succeed, whatever its composition.
Because things, as we know, can always get worse.
9. Mar 2016 at 13:48 | Tom Nicholson