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Slovak Republic - Politics

What interconnects almost all interpretations of Slovaks´ position in remote or recent history is the continuous stress on their plebeian origin along with the deeply rooted ´Christian Catholic´ traditions and values in the life of the people. Everyone born here in the twentieth century, by the time they reached retirement age, had experienced four to five coups, revolutions, cardinal changes of territorial, state, political and economic system. The majority of Slovak population who were in 1993 eighty or more years old had lived in seven different state entities and had their life regulated by eight different constitutions, without even moving away from the place where they were born. Out of the five regimes they experienced, only two can be considered democratic.

Myths, rituals and their symbolic meaning provide the people with a feeling of security and continuity, due to the relative stability of their forms and manifestations. Symbolical behavior represents the basic form of interaction between political elites and public; it confirms the legitimacy of power relations and secures the authority of rulers.

The "Slovak question" was in fact a concentrate of national and political, as well as economic, social and cultural problems; the issue of relations between Slovaks and their neighbours, in particular Czechs and Hungarians but also Russians and Germans; the question of foreign policy orientation. The complexity of problems mentioned was perceived as a question of life and death of Slovak national identity.

Entangling of the democratic tradition between 1994 and 1998 affected both processes and provoked a large number of frequently exaggerated self-criticising assessments announcing the onset of non-liberal democracy, nationalist character of Slovak political culture, dictatorship of the majority in political life, or instinctive Slovaks inclination toward authoritarianism.

People continue to see politics rather as ´lords´ mischief´ and an opportunity to ´illegally rob the state at the expense of the working people´ than ´a service to the public´. The conflict between perception of ´we´ and ´them´ persists and although such differentiation is common in countries with long dem ocratic traditions, too, in Slovakia it still shows certain residues of the feudal relations between ´people´ and ´suzerain´, existence of two worlds where politicians belong to the world of ´strange´ or ´bad lords´.

After the 1992 elections, Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which demanded Slovak autonomy as a matter of fairness, emerged as the leading party in Slovakia. In June 1992, the Slovak parliament voted to declare sovereignty, and the federation dissolved peacefully on January 1, 1993. Meciar's party ruled Slovakia for its first 5 years as an independent state. His authoritarian style as Prime Minister created international concerns about the democratic development of Slovakia. During his period government had not shown any progress towards democratization and liberalization. The regime was assessed by the opponents and western countries as an autocracy.

The year 1998 was the turning point in the history of independent Slovakia. By the parliamentary revolution, opposition parties made possible the change in government. This is event is believed as the starting point of color revolutions in post-communist area.In the 1998 elections, HZDS received about 27% of the vote, but was unable to find coalition partners and went into opposition. After the "OK 98" campaign, a coalition government came to power and democratization started.

An anti-Meciar coalition formed a government led by Mikulas Dzurinda, the chairman of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) and began to pursue critical economic and political reforms. The first Dzurinda government enabled Slovakia to enter the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), begin accession negotiations with the European Union (EU) and close virtually all chapters of the accession acquis, and make the country a strong candidate for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) accession. However, the popularity of the governing parties declined sharply, and several new parties gained relatively high levels of support in public opinion polls.

In the September 2002 parliamentary elections, a last-minute surge in support for the SDKU gave Dzurinda a mandate for a second term. He formed a government with three other center-right parties: the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), Christian Democrats (KDH), and Alliance of New Citizens (ANO). The main priorities of the coalition were ensuring a strong Slovak performance within NATO and the EU, fighting corruption, attracting foreign investment, and reforming social services, such as the health care system. Following a summer 2003 parliamentary shake-up, the government lost its narrow parliamentary majority and controlled only 69 of the 150 seats; however, because of conflicts among the opposition parties, the coalition was able to remain in power with the tacit support of Meciar's HZDS.

Slovakia became a member of NATO on March 29, 2004, and joined the EU on May 1, 2004. All parliamentary political parties strongly supported Slovakia's NATO and EU accession.

For more than a decade after 2006, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico had been directing his country's political fortunes. He is described as a social democrat, but in reality, he was a clever power tactician. He adopted positions from the far left to the far right, as the circumstances and facts require. That approach saw him survive numerous controversies, including corruption scandals.

In what was a gradual process for decades, politics became about reading poll numbers and strategic communication. It became more about resumes, marketing and avoiding “gaffes” than shaking hands outside the factory gate during the shift change. What people wanted today were representatives that remind them of themselves, or at least how they like to envision themselves. Democracy was never really designed to create some permanent class of career politicians.

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