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.