A wave of interest, participation and sympathy was sparked by news from Slovakia that Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová no longer intends to run for re-election. The expected interactions with him lead to questions about what currents in society the president represents and to what extent Slovak differences are transferred to us. Peter Weiss has been a veteran of Slovak politics since 1989, he was ambassador to Budapest and Prague, and today he is considered a kind of intellectual pride of another part of the Slovak left, Peter Pellegrini’s party HLAS – Social Democracy.
HLAS stands halfway between Caput’s progressives and Robert Figo’s Old Left. However, Weiss, an old political practitioner, does not limit himself to the populist right-wing that has been in power until now, as he says, but also criticizes Slovakian politics of the past few years.
What did Zuzana Čaputová really represent?
Above all, the desire for change. He is the second head of state to be elected by the people as a non-political politician, after Andrzej Kiska. They directly elected someone who was not involved in politics till then. It is a struggle against the failures of traditional politics and traditional parties. This, of course, posed risks to the effectiveness of the presidency. After her election, Zusana Kabutova admitted that she lacked experience in the most important matter of affirming foreign policy. Another time, during Covid, she sighed that she didn’t really understand the country she was living in. I would apply to her an old warning from the political scientist Max Weber: The worst thing in politics is to pursue some abstract ideal with all your might. He developed his value system regardless of political circumstances. At the same time, she faced a polarized, but fragmented, society deeply irritated by Covid. This is his main problem: since he was only a non-governmental activist, until his election, he did not manage a major institution – a political party, nor was he in the state administration. People liked her, almost 60 percent of the people voted for her, even with low turnout. He got over a million votes, but his legitimacy didn’t exactly spread from the start.
When you talk about the desire for fundamental political change, it manifested itself even before Kaputova’s victory in 2019, right?
Yes, it came out in three waves. First, in the 2017 regional elections, Roberto Fico’s Smar party lost its dominant position at the regional level. Smar was previously the only party to have monochromatic governance even at the national level. The next wave occurred after the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his accomplice, and this wave was represented by Čaputová in the presidential election four years earlier. A third wave of the same desire brought Igor Matovych as head of government in 2020. Together, I would characterize those waves as a desire for a decent Slovakia, for the return of the kidnapped state, against the mafiaization of society, against corruption.
What kind of waves came together to bring about the result?
Today, when Zuzana Čaputová announced that she will not run for a second term, Slovak society is in a worse position than it was four years ago. The right-wing populist governments of Igor Matovič and later Eduard Heger were highly incompetent, arrogant towards citizens, coalition partners were rude to each other, argued live and used rude language. At the same time, they were completely unable to respond to the great challenges of the time. It is understandable that they make the excuse that no one has faced the covid crisis, the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine and the accompanying mega-inflation. But the Austrians had the same thing, and you, the chaos that prevailed in Slovak society, did not. According to sociologist Michal Vašečka, we have reached a state of anomie, in which the initial social rules no longer apply. It probably wouldn’t have happened anywhere else. Today, 75 percent of Slovaks trust no one. It is an advanced breakdown of trust in the state.
Can you explain any rule breaking?
Why did you use the word evil with Matovič? Shouldn’t such words be sparingly used in politics?
Where do you see the turning point in breaking ties with traditional politics?
How is dehumanization manifested in Slovakia?
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Peter Weiss (1952) studied philosophy at Comenius University in Bratislava, from 1975 he worked in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at the Institute for Marxism-Leninism until the coup. He says that the information about Stalinism’s crimes during perestroika certainly opened his eyes. Active in politics since November 1989, he oversaw the transformation of the Communist Party of Slovakia into the SDL Democratic Left Party as its leader. He sat in Parliament till 2002. In the years 2009-2020, he was ambassador first in Budapest and then in Prague. Today he is considered the intellectual mastermind of Peter Pellegrini’s HLAS movement. She lives in Bratislava, has two-year-old children and two grandchildren.