A hundred days haven’t passed yet, let us work, said Prime Minister Robert Fico in response to the opposition’s attempted no-confidence vote targeting Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák on June 7. The June days preceding the session indeed saw most ministers of the ruling Smer hard at work – but mostly making politics rather than policy in their respective departments.
While international diplomats grilled Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák as he pursues a candidacy for the top post in the United Nations, Interior Minister Kaliňák was trying to make his way out of the hot water in the form of the vote, the second to target him during his career.
The washing of Kaliňák’s dirty laundry publicly in parliament was an unpleasant experience not so much for the ruling Smer party, whose voters have after all repeatedly demonstrated a rather high threshold of tolerance to corruption allegations, but rather for Smer’s two centre-right coalition partners Most-Híd and Sieť. As political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov put it, the opposition allegations presented in the parliament “crashed their internal feeling of being in the coalition with people suspected of various unpleasant things”.
Culture Minister Marek Maďarič also had to deal with a clash of policy with politics. What he called his key proposal – the hike of monthly fees citizens pay for the public-service broadcaster’s work – was blocked by the nationalist SNS, the party that was supposedly expected to have the least problematic relationship with Smer in the ruling coalition.
Paradoxically, these supposed allies are the first to create a bigger intra-governmental clash. And for some rather specious reasons at that. As the party’s deputy chairman Anton Hrnko explained for Aktuality.sk news portal: the official name (Radio and Television of Slovakia) is not Slovak enough, and they also disapprove of the broadcaster’s logo that includes a colon.
“Slovaks are not a colon,” Hrnko observed.
Maďarič however feels let down by his coalition partners and is willing to go as far as giving up the ministerial chair if the fees are not raised or if SNS doesn’t offer better reasons for opposing his proposal.
The fact that Maďarič, Smer’s ideological mastermind and one of Fico’s most loyal collaborators, now threatens to leave Fico’s cabinet, came as a surprise to many local observers, although they don’t seem to be too worried that Maďarič’s threat will materialise. Even if it did, the coalition would most likely survive without him.
Fico himself does not seem to be worried about Maďarič. Nor worried about Lajčák, who as the UN general-secretary candidate needed to prepare for his grilling in the aftermath of Fico’s most recent variation of the we-want-no-Muslims-in-Slovakia topic.
Slovakia is now only days away from becoming the country to preside over the EU Council. Come July, it will be expected to help calm the atmosphere in the European Union following the Brexit-Bremain referendum.
Let’s hope that sunnier days are ahead for the summer months.
9. Jun 2016 at 22:05 | Michaela Terenzani