March 16, 2018
Far be it from me to tell Slovaks that they should not harbor anger for Robert Fico, Robert Kaliňák or Smer. Given the inexcusable murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová, and Fico’s callous, almost psychopathic, response there is even more reason to be upset — and then there was that mischievous smirk he gave while resigning.
Still, to an outside observer this government reshuffle looks the best possible result, for now.
Up to a few weeks ago the resignations of Kaliňák and Fico within a few days of one another would have seemed like a dream come true. Yet, today there are many who want more. As an emotion this is understandable — even justified — but for it to also be rational those same people would have to describe a realistic scenario to replace the current government with something better.
The last time I checked, Barack Obama or Emmanuel Macron are not leading the opposition. Angela Merkel, Winston Churchill or Gandhi (choose whatever political leader you might admire), are not waiting to replace the government. There is Kotleba, Kollár and Matovič, and there are opinion polls that show them as the prime beneficiaries of this political chaos. Those same polls indicate it’s far from guaranteed that the only coherent party in opposition, SaS, would even finish in the top two if an election were held today. Smer’s support has dropped to just 20%, and it seems possible it will fall even further (who do you guess might collect those votes instead?). Meanwhile, new movements like Progressive Slovakia and Together, are promising but still too young, unknown and disorganized to even make it into parliament.
As menacing as that smile from Fico was March 15, it was not smile of a confident man. It was the fake bravado of person handing in his resignation to a rival, President Andrej Kiska, who not only successfully pushed for Fico’s removal but — let us not forget, because Fico hasn’t — also defeated him by a landslide in a head-to-head election.
Don’t get me wrong, Fico may well try to control this government from behind the scenes, but the idea he can do so in a manner similar to someone like Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland is total nonsense. Unlike Kaczyński’s case there are two other parties in the governing coalition who can still bring the government down at any time. Along with controlling an outright majority, Kaczyński’s party is popular. Smer is not. In Poland the president is a Kaczyński ally, Kiska is not.
Fico fell because of opposition from across the country. Will he try to do whatever he can to cover the asses of himself and his friends? Yes, but his ability to do so declines by the minute. This should be enough, for now. These are good, not perfect, developments. Perfect can be the enemy of good.