IVO Presents its Slovakia 2007 Annual Report

The independent think tank Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) presented its annual publication Monday, which evaluates the state of society in Slovakia in 2007. Rising influence of the state, tyranny of the majority, cronyism, decreased legal certainty, and suppression of the third sector and of the opposition were characteristic of 2007 in Slovakia. The tyranny of the majority would have been visible mainly in parliament, where the ruling coalition totally suppressed the opposition. The report states with concern that the government deviated more and more from the principles of the rule of law last year. The ruling coalition pursued a policy that made investors and citizens insecure. Moreover, the IVO report mentions that the government tried to gain control over non-government organizations and restricted the right to information.
IVO analysts also point to a rise in nationalism and aggressiveness in the rhetoric of the government, relativizing of changes following the fall of communism and efforts to gradually take over control of public media. The prime minister uses very aggressive vocabulary. He called members of the opposition criminals and traitors to the state.

IVO President Grigorij Meseznikov sees significant parallels between the current government of Robert Fico and the 1994-1998 government of Vladimir Meciar and his methods, which led to U.S. and EU demarches. This is why the authors of the report characterized last year in Slovakia by likening the government to a steamroller, a metaphor that describes the ruling coalition and its relation to power. However, fortunately, Slovakia is now a member of the EU and NATO, which means that the current government is not given free rein to implement its plans.

Standard of living in Slovakia worries Slovaks most. This concern is followed by those related to unemployment; however, these worries are not as intensive as they used to be. Despite economic growth, concerns about the future were quite widespread among Slovaks, while economic expectations are no longer as optimistic as they used to be. The report infers that this reflects fears of euro adoption, which may be accompanied by price hikes.

IVO does not see this year optimistically. The institute fears that the government is prepared to compromise basic principles in place in Slovak society, pointing to several draft bills on the verge of approval. There is a bill on civic associations and other non-governmental organizations, a new "muzzle" press bill for free private media, a bill on obedience for public service media, extra fees for consumers of electricity and a law on protection of the republic for all its citizens.

IVO anticipates that the opposition has no chance of winning over the ruling coalition in upcoming elections; the opposition can only attempt to gain as many votes as possible. IVO emphasizes that voter preferences for the coalition significantly exceed voter preferences for opposition parties. Forty-five percent of decided voters would vote for Smer-SD, which is around 30 percent of all voters. The report states that if the quality of democracy continues to worsen, there will be calls for redress.

BRATISLAVA, February 18, (SITA)

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