Thursday, July 08, 2010

Slovakia Gets First Female PM

From a government led by Europe's version of Hugo Chavez to a smart-talking, sensible woman who will charm the staid pols of Europe.  That's the jump Slovakia is making.  Out: Robert Fico and his quasi-fascist coalition partners, the Slovak National Party, or SNP.  In: Iveta Radicova, a member of the center-right Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, or SDKU party.  Out: quarreling with Hungary.  In: fence mending.  Out: anti-NATO rhetoric.  In: more Washington fealty and fodder for the Afghanistan quagmire.  Overall, bigwigs in European capitals are probably grinning ear-to-ear over this appointment and glad to see Mr. Fico shown the door. 


Actually, Fico's SMER won last month's election.  In fact their 62 seats, was twelve better than the party won in 2006. 

In 2006, Fico took little time to court controvery, picking the SNP to join his coalition, setting off a storm of protests. 

Fico's 2006 decision to join forces with the SNP came at a price. Smer was booted out by their comrades of the European democratic socialist parties. That was the first time any Socialist-associated party had been blacklisted by the group.

The SNP party leader is one, Jan Slota, a thuggish type who would love to kick all the Hungarians across the Danube River back to their original home.

In campaigning for June's election, the SNP, resorted to race-baiting to pump up flagging poll numbers, as the Informant reported

Down in the polls, the SNS churned out stacks of posters showing a dark-skinned man and a golden necklace, accompanied by the slogan, "Do not feed those who do not want to work."

The poster sparked outrage in Slovakia, not least among the Gypsies, or Roma, themselves, who are at the bottom-rung in Europe's socio-economic feeder system.

Smer provided some headlines of its own, proposing that 'problematic' Roma be removed from their families and raised in institutions. 

Al-Jazeera called it either Europe's most ambitious or controversial decision to deal with the Roma problem.

Then there are the spats with Hungary, for centuries the overlord of what is today's Slovakia.

A Hungarian proposal to grant citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living beyond the borders of today's Hungary elicited an angry response from Fico, who called a 'national security council' meeting, and threatened a "very tough' response if the legislation went forward; it didn't.

Hungary's premier-elect Viktor Orban pushed the citizenship law in campaigning for April elections which Orban's right-wing party Fidesz won.

Fico was also chummy chummy with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, while giving the cold shoulder to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown when the visited Bratislava

Not surprisingly, Slovakia has become a key Russian energy partner

And while Slovakia is a card-carrying member of NATO, Fico defiantly stated Slovakia would never base components of a US missile shield, uncharacteristic for usually fawning Eastern European leaders. 

So, mandarins from Brussels to Washington can't wait for the door to slam on Fico's backside. 

In comes Radicova, with impeccable credentials, having stood with Slovak dissidents in the 1980s.

She did get into a bit of hot water after a failed 2009 presidential bid, when she literally pushed the voting button for an absent colleague in the Slovak parliament. 

Presseurop picks up the story:

In the wake of her defeat in the 2009 presidential election, Radičová committed an error when she pressed a voting button for a colleague who was not present in parliament. The subsequent allegations of fraud sparked an outcry and resulted in a political and media witch hunt, which culminated in Radičová's resignation from her parliamentary mandate. At the time, the daily SME announced that she was a defunct force in politics, and it appeared that her career was well and truly over. But everything changed at the end of January.

The 53-year-old will lead a four-party coalition bringing in her Christian Democratic Union, the liberal Freedom and Solidarity, the Christian Democrats and the ethnic-Hungarian Most-Hid. 

All told, the SDKU and its allies won 79 of parliament's 150 seats. 

She is also talking the talk the IMF like to hear: financial restraint. 

The first task of the government will be to make a long-awaited decision on Slovakia's part of a 750 billion euro ($944.7 billion) European safety net for debt-laden countries unable to borrow on international markets, a deal agreed under the Fico government. 

The incoming coalition has balked at guaranteeing 4.5 billion of up to 440 billion euros in loans for euro zone states struggling with high debt, saying Slovakia, as the zone's poorest state, should not have to pay for profligate countries with much higher incomes.

Sounds logical, but not what Brussels wants to hear. 

Maybe Slovakia retains its unofficial title as Europe's black sheep, or ewe, as it were. 
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