The European election in Slovakia uncovered that Kiska, Čaputová and now the winners of EU elections represented by Progressive Slovakia and Together may not yet be seen as a deviation in Central Europe politics still embodied by Miloš Zeman, Jarosław Kaczyński and Viktor Orbán. However, they could be seen as a new generation of politicians who were raised in the turbulent times of the fight over the character of the state. Nevertheless, we live in Central Europe and there is always some “BUT”.

Slovak society is again paralysed by hope towards a better future. It is able to fight against every extreme in a crucial time and mobilise when it has the feeling that the society, state, nation is losing its credits abroad. European elections should be the perfect example: the pro-European forces were able to mobilise crucial segments of the population, and with a lower level of turnout, they were able to win the election with more than 20%.

BUT, as we said, Slovak society is once again paralysed by hope.

It was paralysed by hope in the last local election when the new generation of politicians – finally without any communist past or shadow forces behind them – were elected, and they are functioning in their roles as pro-active volunteers in the public sphere. It was also paralysed when the youngest female president in the world was elected. And again, paralysis continues with the pro-European and pro-liberal politicians elected to the European parliament.

Zuzana Čaputová

We are staying paralysed by so many victories hitting us in such a short period of time. Yeah, you can argue with me that it all sounds good, but paralysis never translates into anything good: to be paralysed means you are not moving anywhere, you are stagnant. How pleasant will that be for our future?

We learnt to stop listening to negative voices in our heads; we stopped using our “red control button” staying calm and satisfied with the feeling that we have won the country, which had been stolen from us.

But if you are paralysed by hope, can you see other forces slowly emerging and making their way into our lands? They might look the same with similar features, ideas and aims, but they live in a completely parallel universe. And these forces are becoming stronger and stronger.

The European election showed us that the conservative and fascist forces are gaining more and more popularity among individuals who are also same as we, calling for change but a very different one.

The European election showed clearly again that the trend is coming to our lands, that the battle is already settled between two camps, and we are not able to predict who will be the winner because the forces are quite balanced.

The European election has shown, mainly in Slovakia, two signs that could be crucial in the following years and especially in upcoming parliamentary elections. It showed that the political environment is clearing itself of politicians who are using populistic rhetoric, pretending their clear integrity towards nationalistic and conservative values of Slovak society. At the same time, there are pragmatic, opportunistic individuals who are driven by their primitive instincts of power, money and glory.

An optimistic dreamer could see these changes in the political system as something fresh, inspiring and beneficial for the future of society and the system. But optimistic dreamers and all us might be wrong.

This process of purification — and don’t get me wrong I’m not just a pessimistic, cynical Central European living in Slovakia — should be seen first as a process of massive polarisation of society. We experienced such a polarisation during the Meciar regimes, where families stopped speaking to each other because of their different world-views and suspicious behaviour. I am afraid that I have déjà vu, and I am seeing this manifest again in Slovak society.

(Source: SITA)

The relative victory of progressive forces in European election in Slovakia and the ongoing growth of extreme far-right is represented not only by Marian Kotleba and Progressive Slovakia. They are only first alternatives of their kind for the society, which is calling for change, calling for a new political culture and for new elites who will protect them and give them back the dignity they already lost in the past.

However, both sides of political spectrum are winning; both sides are facing the same problems paralysed by their own victories.

The future of Slovakia and Europe can therefore be depending on the level of paralysation and mobilisation within both sides of society. Who will be able to act on these two paradigms more effectively? I am not brave enough to say.

The impact of the slow self-cleaning of society will also influence its structure and character. In the end, who knows what will bring us the future. Maybe this paralysation by hope will prove itself to be the best strategy for winning in the Slovak and European society.

Slovak society has shown the ability to mobilize in times when democracy is at risk, doesn’t that give us reason for optimism?

This article is part of the #DemocraCE project organised by Visegrad/Insight.

Bratislava Policy Institute Executive Director

Central European Futures

Over the past several years, it has become ever more apparent that the post-Cold War era of democratic reform, socio-economic development and Western integration in Central Europe is coming to an end.

Visegrad Insight is published by the Res Publica Foundation. This special edition has been prepared in cooperation with the German-Marshall Fund of the U.S..

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