Interesting political times in Slovakia
In the recent election a popular man of the people was elected, Robert Fico. This man has chosen to form an alliance with the stranger and downright nasty side of Slovak politics.
The Slovaks, who were doing well until last month, seem to be marching off in the past through a majority for a leftist-nationalist coalition in Slovakia. Under the leadership of Robert Fico, a smooth-talking populist, a new Slovak government will take office this week.
One bit of it is the Slovak National Party (11%), led by Jan Slota, a rumbustious figure whose unguardedly hostile remarks in the past about Roma (gypsies) and about Slovakia's Hungarian minority have made foreigners and liberal-minded locals feel queasy. The other coalition partner is a grouping led by Vladimir Meciar (8.5%), an autocratic ex-boxer who, as prime minister until 1998, led his country into economic stagnation and political isolation.
Both parties and both leaders may have mellowed a bit over the years. Mr Fico is at pains to sound reasonable: pro-Europe, pro-NATO, pro-business, pro-everything. But there are big doubts about his economic programme, which is largely based on rolling back the free-market reforms of the outgoing centre-right government. His newly appointed finance minister, Jan Pociatek, is a little-known restaurateur with no formal background in economics.
The new government has inherited a very strong economy and is unlikely to ruin it. But it may shed some of its predecessor's keenness to adopt the euro, an event pencilled in for 2009.
It also has to be noted that the Slovaks reacted to the capitalist excesses of the right wing Dzurinda government that transformed slovakia into a giant into the ireland of central europe.
Hopefully the next decade will see a frequent changing of the guard, particularly as a way to tackle corruption. This is now Slovakia biggest issue, and more youthful politicians may bring more transparency in the finances of the state.
We shall see...