Sunday, April 04, 2004

Ghosts of the Past Over Europe

Vladimir Meciar has won the first round of Slovakian presidential elections. His victory represents huge shock for all those who had written off former Slovakian leader as part of that country's authoritarian past.

By rejecting Meciar and his brand of nationalism Slovakia was supposed to turn the new bright page in its history and embrace liberal democratic European future.

Slovakian voters apparently had other ideas and allowed Meciar to stage his great comeback. Of course, it all can change in second round with liberal democrats gathering their votes around single anti-Meciar candidate, but experiences tell that winner of first round usually has big moral advantage over any possible opposition. Voter apathy, despair and relatively little importance of presidential post of Slovakia might conspire to give Meciar his victory.

This development might look shocking, but not so if Slovakia is compared with countries of Southeastern Europe where nationalists, chauvinists and authoritarians are making slow comeback under "reformed", "moderate" or "kinder and gentler" banner.

The chauvinism is rearing its ugly head even in those countries who were supposed to be role models for their neighbours in the Balkans.

Slovenia, which, compared to its former federal partners, indeed looks like the embodiment of enlightened and prosperous liberal democracy, has just shown that the large segments of its populations support views not so very different from those that gave democratic legitimacy to the likes of Milošević (Milosevic), Tudjman and Šešelj (Seselj).

Today's referendum in Slovenia, just like the presidential elections in Slovakia, is probably not going to have any actual political or even legal relevance, but it clearly shows that the EU expansion won't magically erase the ghost of the past in Eastern Europe.


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