IVO president comments for The Slovak Spectator

Weekly "The Slovak Spectator" released three articles containg analyses of IVO president Grigorij Mesežnikov.

The Slovak Spectator, 16 June 2014
Gašparovič departs
by Beata Balogová

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The refusal to appoint Jozef Čentéš to the post of general prosecutor after he was lawfully elected by parliament, a cosy relationship with the Smer party and a formal approach to the presidential office are among the failings political analysts addressed by The Slovak Spectator listed when assessing the decade-long performance of Ivan Gašparovič as Slovakia’s head of state. When asked to name some positive contributions, political scientist and president of the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) Grigorij Mesežnikov said he does not see much. However, in situations where it was necessary to confirm Slovakia’s trans-Atlantic solidarity, Gašparovič mostly did his job, he said.

During the 1990s, Gašparovič was a staunch ally of Mečiar, whose party has since slipped into political oblivion. After failing to make a mark at the 2002 general election, Gašparovič’s career improbably took off after he vanquished his former boss Vladimír Mečiar in the 2004 presidential election. Gašparovič gained 59.9 percent of the votes in the second round of the 2004 election, while Mečiar received just over 40 percent. This result followed the unexpected first-round defeat of then-foreign minister Eduard Kukan of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), who had been considered the favourite in the race, with many centre-right voters staying at home, assuming that Kukan was set to win and thus sending Gašparovič and Mečiar to the second round.

“He was elected to this post rather accidentally; only very few had assumed that he [Gašparovič] would beat Eduard Kukan in 2004,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator, adding that some people voted for him simply because they were against Mečiar.

In 2006, when Fico and his Smer party were elected, Gašparovič began preparing the ground for his own re-election. He was notably friendly towards the Fico government when signing the laws that Fico and his ruling coalition allies produced. The fact that he did so despite the presence of the Mečiar-led HZDS in the ruling coalition showed how politics in Slovakia often takes strange turns. Gašparovič won the 2009 presidential election after collecting 55.53 percent of the votes in the second round.

Gašparovič has failed to contribute to the perception of the presidential post as a non-partisan, independent and inclusive position, said Mesežnikov. “Even if he sometimes claimed it as his goal, he has not done it, and he always entered party politics on the side of Fico and Smer,” Mesežnikov said, adding that “he has not used, in my opinion, the chances that the presidential post offers for creating a different platform that would help to solve problems”.

Mesežnikov singled out Gašparovič’s refusal to appoint Jozef Čentéš to the post of general prosecutor after he was lawfully elected by parliament as among the president’s biggest failings. The term of the previous general prosecutor, Dobroslav Trnka, expired in February 2011, but it took until June of that year for parliament to elect Čentéš as his replacement. However, Gašparovič then refused to appoint him despite the Constitutional Court ruling in October 2011 that his election had been constitutional. He faced extensive criticism from the opposition and political analysts for refusing the appointment and then for presenting what they said were insufficient reasons for formally rejecting him.

As far as foreign policy is concerned, Gašparovič was more or less in line with the country’s basic foreign-political and security priorities and “there he came across rather positively,” said Mesežnikov, adding that “he actually was not the one who co-created the foreign policy, but he only followed the defined priorities, and I have to add, more so than the prime minister”. However, according to Mesežnikov, Gašparovič has not been as pro-active as he could have been.


The Slovak Spectator, 16 June 2014
Kiska: expectations high
by Michaela Terenzani – Stanková

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For the first time in Slovakia’s 20-plus-year-long history the country is getting a political greenhorn for a president. Yet, Andrej Kiska raises high hopes among the population and observers as he succeeds Ivan Gašparovič in the presidential chair. “The credit of trust [he received in the election] is very high,” political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator, noting that no non-partisan candidate has ever managed to outnumber the most popular politician in the country by 19 percent, as Kiska did in the run-off of the presidential election against Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Kiska might not have any political experience, but he definitely possesses other kinds of experience and qualities that might help him to become a good president, observers believe. Besides, the first-ever non-political president can finally make sense of the direct election of the president in the country. The public’s expectations for Kiska are high as he promises to open up the office to the problems of ordinary people, make changes that fall within his power and possibly improve things in various areas of state administration, particularly the judiciary.

Kiska’s lack of experience in politics should not prove to be problematic for him in the presidential office, as it is easy to overcome, analysts agree. On the contrary, the fact that he has no background in a political party is an advantage for a president who wants to avoid being biased, Mesežnikov said. “I presume that as a man who was successful as a top manager, he can easily gain experience and use his qualities,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator, adding that Kiska’s public statements before and after the election suggest that he is familiar with society’s main problems and the country’s foreign policy, and is pro-democratic.

Even though the media have been paying attention mainly to Kiska’s pledges and ambitions on the domestic scene, the presidential powers are perhaps greater when it comes to foreign policy. Indeed, Kiska’s first task after the inauguration is his scheduled participation at the Visegrad Group presidential summit in Budapest on June 16. Slovakia’s foreign policy comes into focus particularly in light of the Ukrainian crisis at the moment when Kiska is assuming the presidential office. “The face of Slovakia before the Russian-Ukrainian crisis did not differ that much over the past years from its Visegrad partners,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator, noting that recently, this has changed. “I expect Kiska to return Slovak foreign policy, also in this context, to its original track, meaning greater solidarity with our Visegrad partners in this situation, particularly with Poland,” Mesežnikov said.

Mesežnikov admits that his expectations are high considering Kiska’s performance in the office. He expects the new president to turn the office into “something other than just a sort of post office for the ruling party to mediate and handle political orders”, and to be more balanced than his predecessor Gašparovič, who according to Mesežnikov cared mainly about his relations with the ruling political party.


The Slovak Spectator, 16 June 2014
Can Kiska, Fico work together?
by Michaela Terenzani – Stanková

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As of June 15, Slovakia will have a president and a prime minister with a history that hardly lays a good basis for their constructive cooperation. The pair faced each other in the run-off of the presidential election, which was preceded by two weeks of intensive, and at times very unpleasant campaigning.

As Robert Fico kept accusing Andrej Kiska of links with the Church of Scientology and usury, Kiska did not hesitate to announce on the night when the results of the election’s first round were published that he was filing a criminal complaint for the anonymous negative campaigning that had been waged against him.

Fico said many things that he should never have said, but since it happened, it cannot be undone, political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov, president of the non-governmental Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), told The Slovak Spectator, following Kiska’s election. There is however no reason “to bring all this into institutional cooperation”, he added.

Indeed, ever since he was elected, Kiska has stressed that he wants to act as a counter-balance to the government, while having constructive relations with the administration and particularly with the prime minister. He repeated that after he met Fico about a week before his inauguration, calling their meeting constructive and even pleasant in an interview with the Sme daily.

Despite the good intentions expressed by Kiska, Mesežnikov conceded he expects problems with Fico being the one to provoke conflicts, “since he is known to be quite vengeful, very personal, combative and quarrelsome”.

All through the presidential campaign, running against the prime minister and the leader of the one-party government, Kiska has stressed his ambition to serve as a counter-balance to the government. Following his election, he maintained the same rhetoric, talking about “a healthy balance”. If he manages to do that, it would certainly come as a change compared with his predecessor, Ivan Gašparovič, who was inclined towards the ruling party.

Balancing the power of the government is not an option, but a constitutional duty of the president, according to Mesežnikov, given the fact that the constitution is based on the division of power and a system of checks and balances. This counter-balance is particularly important in a situation where the ruling party controls all the other positions in the state (with the exception of the ombudswoman’s office), as is currently the case in Slovakia. “If we look at the way the constitution’s provisions are formulated concerning the division of power, [the president being the counter-balance to the government] is even a natural state,” he said. This balance is secured through the president’s power to veto a bill and return it to parliament, or the power to countersign various appointments.

Fico was trying to do just the opposite and concentrate power in his own hands when running for president , Mesežnikov noted. On the other hand, Kiska does not seem to have any power-related ambitions of his own. “He has not suggested that he would have any ambition to build some other power centre or to politically influence the system, change it, or strengthen the powers of the president,” he said.

The presidential office is perceived as mainly ceremonial, with little influence over the day-to-day affairs of the country. This perception has been strengthened in the past 10 years, when Gašparovič served in the office.

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