February 5, 2010
„Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s chances of winning a June 12 general election rose on Monday when his main rival, center-right ex-premier Mikulas Dzurinda, pulled out over accusations of money laundering“, writes Reuters, and repeats Financial Times, EurActiv.com and couple of others.
In fact that might not be the case. Not that Mr Fico would not win the next elections – with steady support of 30 – 40 percent in polls, and other contenders way back behind, Smer-SD is on the best way to decide about the next government. But if anything, the pull-out of Mr Dzurinda could make this victory more difficult. Given the catastrophic results of SDKU in recent polls (see for example here or even here), low personal ratings of Mikulas Dzurinda and his divisive image in his own party and opposition camp, a new leader on top of the (still) strongest opposition party could at least increase chances for better results. There are several morals to this story.
First, it is important to know your “point of departure”. Even if you are not among the Dzurinda´s admirers, you have to admit that he played an important role in modern Slovak history. The precise mixture of political skills, historical coincidence and sheer luck is a point of discussion, but the undeniable fact remains – he happened to be the PM when Slovakia entered the EU. His problem was that he started to believe in his own “historical predestination” to lead Slovakia to brighter future: First he “defeated Meciar”. Then he led Slovakia to European family. Then he made the small country into the “economic tiger”. Then he´d save it from Fico… I suppose, for Dzurinda it was difficult to admit that the picture he painted of himself is flaking.
Second, Slovak politics is highly personalised. Relations between the government and the opposition were in the last few years driven not so much by conflict between two strongest political parties – Smer-SD and SDKU (and even less by conflicting ideologies) – as by personal conflict between Fico and Dzurinda. The result could have been expected from the beginning. Dzurinda´d lost not only because he is a less able politician (in his rhetoric, his ability to appeal to “common man”, etc.) but also because he is much a product of the past. Dzurinda once used to personalise an idea of Slovakia, firmly belonging to the West. Now when the difficult questions of “Meciarism”, EU membership, etc seem to be solved, he is not able to appeal to voters.
Third, Fico will have to be more careful. The secret of the continuous popularity of his party – with all the scandals, cases of misgovernment, and difficult coalition partners – lies also in the impotence of the opposition politicians. Fico knew how to fight Dzurinda and therefore he was happy to have him on top in SDKU. Now the situation may change.
Last but not least, recent revelations of shady financial dealings of SDKU (but also other political parties before) teach the already cynical public another lesson. Fico may win the next elections, or opposition may score better than now expected, but they will face growing public distrust of the mainstream politics.Radovan Geist