Observations of an Expat: Three Cheers for Slovakia

April 4, 2019 Europe , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , POLITICS

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By

Tom Arms

 

 

Three cheers for the voters of Slovakia. And a 21-gun salute for Zuzana Caputova, the new Slovak president and heroine of Western liberalism (or is it hero in this new gender-free pc world).

 

Liberals—and everyone else—should cheer because Caputova—in stark contrast to just about every political campaign fought by anyone anywhere in the world—completely eschewed the populist rhetoric, character assassinations, name-calling, intimidatory chants, lies, xenophobia, racism, intolerance and personal attacks that are debasing democratic political systems everywhere. Instead of appealing to phobias and exclusivity, Caputova ran a campaign urging tolerance and inclusiveness.

 

Slovakia has been a good example of the depths to which democracy is capable of sinking. The ruling Smer Party has strong links to the country’s wartime fascist past. Co-founder Jan Slota has stated that the country’s minority Roma problem could be solved with a “long whip in a short room.”

 

Robert Fico, former Prime Minister— and still the power behind the throne— has said: “Slovakia will not accept one single Muslim.” Fico was forced to resign a year ago after the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak who was on the verge of publishing a story about links between Fico’s staff and the mafia. Fico’s one redeeming quality is his dislike of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban whom he has branded a dangerous ultra-nationalist; although this attack should be seen in the context of a general Slovakian prejudice against Hungarians.

 

45-year-old Caputova emerged from this political morass in 2013 when she led a campaign against a toxic landfill outside her hometown. In 2017 and 2018 she helped to organise anti-government protests following the murder of Kuciak. Despite her activities, Caputova was a surprise entry in the presidential race and started the campaign at the bottom of the opinion polls.

 

Her election slogan was “stand up to evil” and her quiet, carefully reasoned arguments that stuck to the facts and avoided personalities, struck a chord with the Slovak electorate. It was also a welcome and refreshing change from the typical populist rhetoric of her Smer opponent Maros Sefcovic.

 

In her acceptance speech, Caputova said that her victory showed the” importance of humanism, solidarity and truth.” She added: “I am happy not just for the result, but mainly because I have proven that it is possible not to succumb to populism, to tell the truth, to raise interest without aggressive vocabulary.”

 

Before liberals get too excited, the Slovakian presidency is a largely ceremonial position. However, the president does appoint the country’s top judges and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. She also leads negotiations in the formation of coalition governments if they are required, and they almost always are because of Slovakia’s proportional representation electoral system.

 

The most important part of the president’s role is representing the character of the country. They are symbolic in a world where symbols are important. The president is seen as above the cut and thrust of daily politics– a reflection of how the country views itself and wants to become more than what it actually is.

 

Caputova is the now the moral leader of a small East European country. She has bucked the trend towards dangerously over simplified populism mixed with fear-based intolerance. Caputova has demonstrated that the answer to the populists who shout their invective from the proverbial rooftops is not to match them decibel for decibel or half-truth. She has shown that sloganeering lies and misinformation can successfully be countered at the ballot box with a carefully constructed, quiet campaign based on facts and sound policies. Larger democracies take note. Learn from the example set by Zuzana Caputova.

 

 

 

 

Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and emailtom.arms@lookaheadnews.com

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