Musings on Contemporary Waffle
English translation from the Slovak of a speech by Andrej Kiska, President of Slovakia, regarding the murders of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancé, Martina Kušnírová
(BACKGROUND NOTE: This fellow, as stated above, is the President of Slovakia, Andrej Kiska. The Slovak president is elected directly by the people and is not a member of any political party. As head of state, he is mostly a figurehead. But, as he is elected directly and is supposed to be unaligned with any political party, his role serves also as the voice of conscience for the country.
The recent murders of a Slovak journalist and his fiancé for likely political reasons have created headlines around the world. But in Slovakia, the shock is possibly without precedent. Andrej Kiska addressed the nation on television today and, as well as expressing the country’s mood about the killings, spoke rather beautifully, and frankly, about the greater tragedy of Slovakia as a corrupt state that the current government is heavily responsible for maintaining.
As he says, after discussion with the Prime Minister, Robert Fico, it is clear to Mr. Kiska that the current government is planning to do nothing of substance about the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová, strongly suggesting, of course, that the government is acting as if it is reliably implicated. Strong words, indeed.
But I am afraid that the aftermath of this tragic incident will be more disappointment for those who hope for a less corrupt and more just Slovakia. Maybe there will be an early election, but there is nothing to force the government to call one short of a majority in the Slovak parliament, which is currently held by Robert Fico’s coalition government. And, the apparatus of successful campaigning — TV stations and newspapers — have largely aligned with Fico, whose government then provides cover for their various other activities of which the public is supposed to be unaware. And the state-run channels (as is the public service itself) are, of course, loaded with government toadies. Certainly not all, but in positions of authority almost exclusively.
Independent journalism does exist in Slovakia — which is a news-devouring nation — but it is increasingly in peril, as the killing of Ján Kuciak clearly demonstrates. As such, Mr. Kiska’s expression of raw truth hurts terribly when it is made so clear and obvious that the country is so deeply balkanized and that there is so little independent oversight (either from the judiciary or the police) to take a government to task.
There is the real fear that even this terrible double-murder will not be enough to create change. The only thing left, as always, is for people to continue to take to the streets, which they are doing, while they demand an election. To what extent they will continue to push, and not have their efforts usurped by the polarization that the government is trying desperately to create, is still for the future to make clear.)
Translation of the speech, delivered Sunday, March 4, 2018:
“Good day, ladies and gentlemen:
“On Thursday [March 1, 2018], I announced that I would be speaking on state television today about the situation taking place in Slovakia related to the murders of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová. Yesterday, I was informed that my speech would be followed by an appearance of the Prime Minister of Slovakia [Robert Fico] and of the head of the ruling coalition [Andrej Danko].
“I had spoken in person with Robert Fico about various ways forward out of this serious political crisis. Unfortunately, he showed that our perceptions of, and our opinions about, possible solutions are, so far, divergent. I decided for these reasons to cancel my [later] evening appearance and to express my position publicly now. The last thing that our society needs, at this time of tension, is a political circus to take place on our TV screens, performed by the highest-ranking politicians in the country.
“On Friday, the memory of these two young people was expressed by tens-of-thousands of people across Slovakia, and around the world. People shared in the highest degree their sadness, but also their wish that the perpetrators of this crime be found and punished. But I felt also a decision being made in people to begin a difficult, even a painful, but unavoidable, process leading towards being able to believe in the State again; in its representatives; in its ability to protect and ensure justice — so that we may, after this wound, stand on our feet again.
“Today, the distrust directed towards the Slovak State by its people is enormous. Many people do not have confidence in the justice system, and many feel this way from their own experiences of it; and this distrust cannot be swayed.
“A line has been crossed, actions have gone to extremes, and no roads lead us back. We find ourselves in a moment where we recognize the arrogance of power.
“I am convinced that the incident we are addressing is being resolved by the best investigators, and hope that they will succeed in solving the murder of these two young people. I would like, therefore, to ask certain people, who include the President of the Slovak Republic, to trust in this process.
“I am not able to lighten an atmosphere that is today smothering our country. Disregard [by the State] is enormous; people’s distrust [of the State] is without precedent; and the feeling that the State is unjust is nearly absolute. And even if the motive for the murders of these two young people is found to be a one-off — or an accident — a large number of people are convinced that this tragedy is nevertheless a true reflection of reality in Slovakia today.
“This is a terrible calling card of our republic after 20 years of its existence. Something evil lies under the surface; something evil lies within the very foundation of our nation. I waited a week to see first what the political steps would be of the governing majority, what decisions it would make to try and come to terms with the tense situation and to re-establish the people’s trust. It seems instead that no solutions are forthcoming. Some people have resigned their positions, while others weigh their options. But I see no plan of action to lead the country out of this crisis of confidence.
“For this reason, I will be organizing a dialogue among the national political parties to determine how they foresee the future, the future existence of the current government, the relationship between the governing parties and the opposing parties; and above all, how do we begin to renew the trust of the people of Slovakia in their own country.
“At this moment, I see two possibilities: a deep and wide restructuring of the current government, which will no longer promote a polarization of society but which will be required to request the confidence of Parliament when it is deserved. Or, early elections, which, in other countries, would have been the most natural course of events. It would be possible to do this efficiently at the same time as the coming municipal elections [in October]. About this, Parliament would need to decide with a majority of 90 seats in the legislature.
“Discussion among the political leaders will commence in the next days, and I will inform the public about the outcome after its completion.
“Through this complex and difficult situation I am prepared to steer this country.”