Welcome to NATO, President Thug!

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Bad news percolating from Slovakia—nationalist brute Vladimir Meciar, whose ejection from political power was the pre-condition for the 14-year-old country's accession into the European Union and NATO, is on the verge of being elected president. (He's up against the terminally un-charismatic Ivan Gasparovic, who at any rate used to be Meciar's lackey.) For outraged reactions by Czech and Slovak newspapers, click here.

As happens every time a Central European country elects a person or political party with a shady past (in Meciar's case, this refers to his abuse of power in the 1990s, not his commie-era behavior, which in fact included being kicked out of the party and sentenced to coal-shoveling for his reform activities), the gloomy what-this-portends-for-the-region think-pieces are beginning to fly. (Why, it was only last August when the dominant storyline about Slovakia was that it was becoming the Hong Kong of Mitteleuropa).

If the recent past is any indicator, the U.S. and Old Europe (not to mention the local and international media) will spend the next 11 days telling Slovaks how they should vote. This tactic has "worked" in the past, especially during the 2002 parliamentary elections, where Meciar's party won only a small plurality and was not able to form a government. But I wonder now, as I did then, whether it's wise for the Captains of the West to teach the newly freed Slavs about democracy by openly intervening in their elections. Seems to me like a recipe for backlash, especially considering the weird Andreas Papandreou-like hold that Meciar will probably always have on a big chunk of the Slovak electorate. At any rate, the presidency is largely ceremonial ? so far.

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  1. “At any rate, the presidency is largely ceremonial ? so far.”

    So why worry?
    What bothers me is the fact that the ads adjacent to this post are starting to blink.

  2. You worry because even ceremonial presidents have *some* power, and Meciar’s track record in exercising the stuff is on the ugly side (even if comparisons to Tudjman & Lukashenko & suchlike were always hyperbolic). Also, holding the presidency makes it much easier for him to compete & win in the 2006 election.

  3. I always like your former-Eastern-Bloc stuff, Matt.

  4. Things are warming up in old Pressburg…

    And now that the Slovakia is in the EU, Brussels can hang sanctions, punishing Slovakia for freely taking the incorrect choice.

    Maybe Meciar and Betina Ferrero Waldner (President Candidate in Austria) may be able to sit at the little kids’ table together at EU dinners until they play along with the rank and file EU members… Plus, Brussels is not to keen on the flat tax and other anti social welfare practices.

    –Karl

  5. What exactly is the point of having a ceremonial president as well as a prime minister? Much of the world seems fond of doing things that way, so I’m genuinely curious to find out why.

  6. Thoreau-
    Supposedly ceremonial presidents serve as figures of national unity that are above the domestinc politics of the day. They can be dispatched to visit orphanages, open bridges and the like without the event being railed about as a major political stunt.

    I’d be curious what someone living in one of these ceremonial president countries would have to say.

  7. Certainly the Slovaks have a right to pick their own leaders, however objectionable they may be to us. But it does not seem like a good idea to let Slovakia into NATO.

    In any case, NATO was established to defend West Europe from the Soviet Union. Why does NATO still exist? There is no Soviet Union anymore. While Russia may still pose a threat to Europe, the Europeans appear strong enough to defend themselves. If the US were to pull out of NATO, I cannot see any bad consequences, and it might make it harder to get the US involved in little wars like the Yugoslavia intervention of several years back.

  8. Nobody cares that the ads are starting to blink?

  9. thoreau,

    “What exactly is the point of having a ceremonial president as well as a prime minister?”

    In most countries with such Presidencies, the President fulfills the role that a monarch plays in a constitutional monarchy. The President’s main function is manage the transition of governments within the parliamentary system.

  10. Clearly all you so concerned know-it-alls are overreacting. So Meciar won. Big deal. If he becomes president, nothing terrible will happen, it just might render him helpless. Electing him to position of virtually no power is a good way of disposing of a “dangerous” man.

    The comparisons with Lukashenko and the lot are outrageous. You could have just as well compared him to Hitler! That would be new…

    His rival Gasparovic is perhaps worse. Apart from being a boring dimwit (and his former right hand – trying to claim that he might be the lesser evil is preposterous), he has no opinions of his own and is easily manipulated. Furthemore he is being supported by Slovakias prime minister in waiting, one disgustingly authoritarian populist named Robert Fico, who I believe is the real danger. He presents the real threat of thwarting the ongoing economic reforms.

    Meciar never was that dangerous as is so oftenly claimed. He is a pathological liar, a bit mentally deranged probably with manic depression. Every other politician falls into this category.

    Meciar is pass?…, they wont kick Slovakia out of EU or NATO over him. They despised him, now they will have to have ceremonials and dinners with him. Sweet.

    Now get over it!

    Oh, by the way, did I mention that I am a Slovak?
    And, no I am not a fan of his. Quite the opposite.

  11. I apologize if my previous post might seem a bit harsh to someone. It just irritates me when people, and particularly in the west, mention Slovakia and in the same breath they say things like Meciar, autoritarian, bad boy, bad Slovaks silly silly, nationalism on the rise, blah, blah,
    etc. Every election Meciar recieves his stable 600 to 700 thousand votes out of 4 milion voters. Only a low turnout has caused this. And Low turnout was caused by our “reform” government and their inapt bumblings (our illustriuos government could look as a “reform” one only from very, very far away… but you would have to live here to see the everyday little BS they produce.).

    Nevermind.

  12. Lemuel — The only person who brought up Lukashenko was me, and it was only to say that comparing Meciar to him (or Tudjman) is inaccurate (and unfortunately typical). And no one said Slovaks were silly, though the word “hej” always makes me giggle.

    And “low turnout” certainly didn’t explain Meciar’s election successes in 1992 and 1994.

  13. Don’t Expand NATO! by Rep. Ron Paul
    http://www.antiwar.com/paul/?articleid=2256

    “Further expansion of NATO, an outdated alliance, is not in our national interest and may well constitute a threat to our national security in the future…”

  14. Dividing the position of Head of State from Head of Government gives the opposition someone to bow down to before going after the Head of Government. This precludes the Chief Executive from using the “L’etate c’est moi” argument – as in, disputing George Bush’s position on XYZ is the same as attacking America. I think it’s a shame our anti-monarchist founders threw out the baby with the bathwater in this case.

    The primary purposes for NATO’s continued existence is as a force multiplier for American foreign policy, to prevent wars between European states, and to prevent a resurgence of Russian militarism by making it obvious that the Russians will never, ever be able to match the opposition.

  15. “At any rate, the presidency is largely ceremonial ? so far.”

    Not entirely true. There are three big fears regarding Mr. Meciar’s presidency:
    1. The President has veto power, and thus can delay the legislative process (even though breaking the veto only requires a simple majority).
    2. The President has the power of amnesty. He and some of his cronies are implicated in the misuse of the Slovak secret service, political kidnapping and even murder. As a president, he’d have the power to stop the investigations.
    3. When he was a Prime Minister, Slovakia got isolated from the more acceptable Eastern European countries. Even as a figurehead, he can have the same effect on foreign governments.

    Anyway, for those who are more interested in the election, especially in the other candidate who wasn’t really described here, I made two posts on the Presidential election in my blog: http://www.purdes.com/blog

  16. Lord help us, this is my heart, this is what I hope in the West Wing? Lame, lame, lame.

    This debate to go forward and are worried about excessive lawsuits, take a look at each other’s throats. NATO was, I hope people ask as this is something different.

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