Last month I posted about the elections in Slovakia. Robert Fico’s “Smer” party — leftish nationalist-populists — had beaten the center-right technocrats.
Well, Fico and Smer have formed a government. And it’s… interesting.
They chose two coalition partners: the right-wing hyper-nationalist, vaguely racist Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS), and the aging ex-Communists of Vladimir Meciar’s HZDS. (You may remember Meciar as the sort of Milosevic/Lukashenko wannabe from the ’90s.)
This is a rather creepy combination. It is rather, well, nationalist socialist. The xenophobic SNS is best known for making hateful statements about Hungarians and Roma and is also associated with anti-Semitism and homophobia. The HZDS is a bunch of sleazy ex-Communists best known for looting state assets under Meciar.
They’re not exactly natural allies, either. HZDS and Smer can get along okay — Fico is in some ways a younger, smarter, slicker Meciar — but SNS is really a party of the far right. (Which is why, a month ago, I thought they were the least likely partner for Smer. D’oh.)
The combination has attracted some attention. The European Socialists have already suspended Smer’s membership (by a vote of 32 countries to 2 — the two being Slovakia and the Czechs). EUS leader Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said that the presence of SNS in Slovakia’s government was “unacceptable”. Meanwhile the US has said that, while it accepts the results of the election and recognizes the new government, it will be “watching”. And the European People’s Party (of the EU Parliament) has created an informal committee to “monitor” the new Slovak government.
So. Is this as bad as all that?
Maybe not. Here’s one positive aspect: Fico and Smer are unquestionably in charge. Although they hold only 60% of the government’s seats (50 out of 85), they hold 11 of the 16 cabinet positions, and all but one (justice) of the five most important ministries. Meciar and Jan Slota, the SNS leader, are being kept firmly out of power. And on all major issues so far, the government is taking Fico’s position, not anyone else’s.
The most positive interpretation is that Fico chose these two parties /because/ they’re marginal and skeevy. He’s their only remote hope of having any power at all. They need him much, much more than he needs them. He can push them around, and there’s not much they can do about it. If this is correct, then he’s buying power for himself and stability for his government at the cost of some international respectability — a bargain that, from his point of view, makes a lot of sense.
That’s the positive interpretation. It’s possible to be a lot less upbeat. We now have an EU country governed in part by a party whose leader (Slota) has made statements like these:
“Hungarians are the cancer of the Slovak nation. Without delay we need to remove them from the body of the nation”
“Jozef Tiso is one of the great sons of the Slovak nation.” (Tiso was the leader of the Slovak Axis puppet state during WWII. Under him, 60,000 Jews were deported to concentration camps. He was executed as a war criminal in 1946.)
â€œWe are negativist only in saying that parasites have to be eliminated, and parasites are simply those who don’t want to work, and the fact that among those people are 95% of all Gypsies is just reality.â€
“The best policy for [Gypsies] is a long whip in a small yard.”
Under the circumstances, it’s surprising how little attention this has generated. I think this says something about the standards that new members are being held to, as opposed to old.
But anyway. Now we all get to wait and see.