Smer is leading a proxy campaign

But Čaputová is not Kiska.

Maroš ŠefčovičMaroš Šefčovič (Source: SITA)

Congesting every conversation with topics of little substance or even with false facts has been an increasingly popular tactic in Slovakia, and elsewhere, in recent years. Five years ago, when Robert Fico ran for president, and faced Andrej Kiska in the runoff, he largely managed to divert discussion away from policy and towards allegations (largely of Fico’s own creation) that his opponent was connected to loan sharks and even Scientology.

This time around, the ruling Smer party has chosen to unveil a kind of proxy campaign of a type we haven’t seen for a while: attacking a candidate by attacking someone else. When support for Zuzana Čaputová hit 50 percent in the last public opinion polls allowed before the first round, Smer representatives rolled out a strategy that they had tested against Kiska five years earlier: fearmongering. Their statements hinted darkly at the imminent dissolution of all traditional families in Slovakia, should Čaputová be elected. What good could come from this “lass” (© Andrej Danko) who does not seem to mind people of the same sex bringing up a child together – even if the alternative is institutional care for that child?

Emotions needed

To the surprise of not just Smer, but also the liberal-leaning part of the society, Smer voters did not seem to buy that argument. Of course, there are enough people who find the idea of same-sex couples, let alone an autonomous and independent woman in a leadership position, repulsive. But many of these folks, it turns out, much prefer candidates who accompany the words “traditional family”, syllable by syllable, with a strong and loud bang on the table. Unfortunately for Smer, their candidate (which he is, despite his best efforts in the first stages of his campaign to make people believe otherwise), Maroš Šefčovič, is just not that kind of politician.

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