Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Respekt: Thick skin of Slovak ex-prime minister Fico

ČTK |
2 May 2018

Prague, April 30 (CTK) - Slovak ex-PM Robert Fico (Smer-Social Democracy) may be regretting that he resigned in March due to pressure after the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak, for he now appears to have put on a thick skin, Martin M. Simecka writes in the weekly Respekt out on Monday.

Former Interior Minister Robert Kalinak (also Smer-SD) resigned later. Although it seemed that the two politicians, who have ruled Slovakia for the past ten years, finished, it is now clear they are not willing to back away at all. And this is what they signalled to the public last week when Kalinak's right hand and former deputy minister took up the interior minister post, Simecka writes.

This decision creates tension in the society for there is not a day when new testimonies pointing to links of both politicians to the world of big business and to outright corruption would not be leaking in the media, he writes.

The unclarified murder of Kuciak gives these testimonies scary credibility, Simecka adds.

Fico and his partners in government, including the new PM Peter Pellegrini from Fico's Smer, who increasingly resembles a puppet only, chose to toughen their policy in a critical situation. This choice, after Kuciak's murder, is the biggest mistake in Fico's political career and one acknowledged by those members of the cabinet who resigned later, Simecka writes.

Last Thursday, Fico said at Smer's congress that the demonstrations' organisers, President Andrej Kiska and the media were attacking the constitutional bodies. And although he has been maintaining a lukewarm social agreement on democratic stability for years, he began to use the language of Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and introduced an authoritarian party leadership. He signals he wants to do the same in the entire state, Simecka says.

This is an error that the whole country and he personally will be paying for since he has blocked the path to a peaceful retreat, Simecka notes.

Fico may not be realising he is no Orban and he has no ideology. His party has decreasing preferences of around 20 percent at the moment and is in coalition with other two parties, the nationalistic SNS and the Hungarian-Slovak Most-Hid, whose loyalty is not without limits, Simecka says.

Above all, in spite of the pro-government public television, there are relatively strong independent media, a president willing to defend democracy and a large active part of the society, which is now mobilised to an extent unseen before, Simecka says.

This creates conditions for a conflict, whose form, date or winner cannot be anticipated. It is simply inevitable, he writes.

Unlike in Central Europe, social processes have been launched in Slovakia since Kuciak's murder that are aimed more against corruption than driven by ideology. The cabinet and its voters, who tolerate corruption in exchange for stability and social security, stand on the one side, and all the others on the other side. The trouble is that the stability Fico was boasting about for long has become a mere illusion, Simecka concludes.

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