It began with criticism of a Sunday lunch with the Dalai Lama, continued with the conflict concerning Constitutional Court candidates, and most recently Smer put a price tag on the president’s flights to his hometown.
Public attacks by the ruling coalition on President Andrej Kiska are getting more intensive, yet his critics do not plan to file a motion against him in the parliament.
The attacks, however, remind political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov about the relations between the government of Vladimír Mečiar and the then-president Michal Kováč during the 1990s. He sees it as an effort to discredit Kiska, because “he is not playing into the ruling coalition’s hands”, just like Kováč did not for Mečiar.
Prime Minister Robert Fico was the one to start the criticism last October, when Kiska unofficially met with the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, for lunch in Bratislava. The government refused to meet the Dalai Lama, also due to their concerns about relations with China.
Later, Parliamentary Speaker Andrej Danko from the Slovak National Party (SNS) joined the critical voices when he repeatedly called on the president to appoint Constitutional Court judges from among the candidates that Smer elected in the parliament. In late March, Danko accused Kiska of acting like a “big gun” concerning flights on the governmental plane. Danko has previously been accused of the same thing, due to the scandal over the captain military rank that he received.
There are differing opinions among the ruling coalition about the sharpened rhetoric of the two top constitutional officials directed at the president.
Kiska vs Kaliňák
Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák of Smer, who has been facing the Bašternák scandal for a year now, calculated the price of Kiska’s flight when speaking in the parliament in late March at almost one million euros.
Kaliňák spoke to the parliament at the request of MP Martin Nemky of Smer who is dissatisfied with the flights.
Kiska, who was then in Israel, repeated his explanation from before: when he became president, Kaliňák asked him to use the governmental planes because the pilots and the planes had logged few flying hours. On Monday April 3, he said that he would limit his flying and will travel by car more often. That might cost the state even more money, however.
“If the interior minister found it in himself to stand up in front of the public and the people and really say how the situation emerged, we did not need to have this campaign against the president at all,” Kiska said.
Bugár wants to remain gentle
Most-Híd is the only party that is staying away from the attacks against Kiska. Its head Béla Bugár did not want to comment on the actions of his partners concerning the issue.
“It is a heterogeneous coalition, we in Most are for a more gentle communication,” he said.
Bugár believes the conflicts started with the Venice Commission report that said the president should have acted over the Constitutional Court judges. At that point the coalition partners lost their patience. Fico, for instance, accused Kiska of violating the Constitution.
The President’s Office reacted to the commission’s stance by saying they will act as soon as the Constitutional Court responds, as recommended by the Commission, regarding if his decision not to appoint the candidates was justified and which of the original candidates are still to be considered official candidates for constitutional judges.
Smer and SNS MPs defend the statements of their party bosses.
“Fico was communicating with him seriously for several months, but then it started,” Smer MP Miroslav Číž said. He too believes Kiska has violated the Constitution.
SNS MP Dušan Tittel does not consider Danko’s accusations against Kiska to be anything special. He argues that things have accumulated “and if the president had appointed the Constitutional judges, it would have been solved by now”.
Even though most of the ruling coalition accuses Kiska, they are not planning to file an accusation against the president that he is not abiding by his constitutional duties.
“There have been no such ideas, however, it is worth considering that recently he has acted irresponsibly and wilfully,” SNS spokesperson Júlia Kollárová said.
Only one who defeated Fico
After the hard presidential campaign in 2014, when Fico tried to depict Kiska as a loan shark and a scientologist, the attacks calmed down. Kiska defeated Fico, but their relations were problem-free. There have been rumours that they have closed a silent no-attacking deal.
That changed after Kiska met the Dalai Lama.
“Whether it will anger him or not, he is fully in the hands of his advisers who are dragging him to hell,” Fico said in late 2016. He also disliked the president’s criticism of the Visegrad Group.
In an interview with the Trend weekly Kiska said in November 2016 that people’s trust in the state got even weaker after the arrival of the new government. He also said that Kalinak should step down.
Fico and Danko then did not attend the ceremonial reception after the state-award ceremony, even though they were invited guests there together with Kiska. Fico criticised Kiska saying that the people who participated in the organisation of the Slovak EU Council presidency did not receive the award, but another event starting with P got it. He was hinting at the organiser of the Pohoda festival, Michal Kaščák.
Ever since it emerged, the coalition has been under pressure over the Bašternák scandal. In late 2016, however, also the Evka scandal emerged, and Danko and Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš were involved in the Captain scandal.
“They are trying to divert attention away from these scandals and even out the critical perception of the government,” Mesežnikov said and added that Fico might also have personal reasons for the attacks.
“Kiska was the only one who has defeated him, which Fico may find hard to cope with,” he said. If the coalition continues in the attacks, Kiska will have to react and relations will continue to be tense in the long run.