The ruling Smer party’s congress, postponed from September, finally took place on October 22. There, the draft of the new programme that will be used in the next general election was presented.
The party intends to address people who are close to a strong social and fair state, the Sme daily wrote. It wants to have clear pro-European Union positions which, however, take into account specific national circumstances. Smer also wants to improve communication with voters because politics is not done via computers. However, the ruling party only opened the debate about the programme theses this weekend, and expects to approve them at a party convention next year.
Party chairman and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico called the programme “politics with a human face”. According to him, Smer wants to especially focus on “the worker from the Volkswagen plant”, as it cannot address one hundred percent of the Slovak people. Thus, the party will not vie for the votes of bankers, the PM added.
Culture Minister Marek Maďarič, who is also vice-chair of Smer, claims that the new theses are in no way connected with the effort to improve the public image of the party which has been declining in popularity since the parliamentary election.
Shift in power
Maďarič is also one of the people whose party position seems to have changed: he presented the new programme and it seems that the door for bigger initiative in Smer might have opened for him, social analyst Martin Slosiarik of the Focus polling agency told Sme.
On the other hand, the position of Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, once deemed the “crown prince” of the party, seems to have shrunk; he sat further away from Fico and the leadership, and he only spoke at the end of debate, after the bloc of ministers. It looks like the scandal connecting him with the businessman Ladislav Bašternák has taken its toll.
Former speaker of parliament – and incumbent party vice-chair – Pavol Paška was the only member of the inner party leadership not to appear at the congress. His earlier draft of the new programme – made together with MP Ľuboš Blaha – was refused by Smer, as was his original request to host the congress. Ultimately, chairman Fico himself hosted the congress and Vladimír Faič, head of Fico’s advisors, MP and member of Smer leadership, was authorized to prepare the programme.
Another missing personality apart from Paška was co-founder of the party Boris Zala who was not even invited; however, he suspended his party membership after harsh overall criticism.
Another critic of Smer, MEO Monika Flašíková-Beňová was expected to deliver tough criticism and was even expected to overshadow the programme theses. However, when she spoke in the debate, she announced she does not want to harm Smer and spoke about corruption only generally, according to Sme. She stressed, as quoted by the SITA newswire, that she missed more equality between men and women than stipulated in the programme.
The proposals, however, like the right of every citizen to a basic package of health care, support for cooperative enterprises or construction of rental housing, are still in the shadow of the Bašternák case. Flašíková-Beňová was one of the few Smer members who called on Kaliňák to resign due to the scandal, Sme wrote. Many party members showed dissatisfaction with her address, especially opening with the the Kaliňák-Bašternák case.
Foreign guests attended
The programme congress was also attended by foreign partners: chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, Czech Prime Minister and leader of Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Bohuslav Sobotka, Austrian Culture Minister Thomas Drozda, and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.
The next party congress is planned for December 10 in Prešov, where the draft of the new programme and its gradual finalising and implementation shall be tackled.