A commentary by Dr. Ján Čarnogurský- former Prime Minister of Slovakia (1991-92) and former chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement (1990-2000). From 1998-2002 he was Minister of Justice of Slovakia. As we documented in Frontiere, he participated in the recent Slovak presidential elections.
Ukraine before presidential elections
Ukraine is faced with the task of electing a new president. The elected president will have a lot on his plate. Current president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown, in violation of the existing Constitution, and his term in office has not yet expired. There cannot be two presidents in one country. Elections will not be held in Crimea, but Ukraine will continue to consider Crimea part of its territory. How will the elections turn out in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine? The new president will have to deal with all these issues. He or she may find the answer in a maxim by German legal theorist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt: the constitutional power of the actual state. If the current regime in Kiev lasts long enough, the position of the new Ukrainian president will stabilize.
Presidential elections will also serve as a kind of an opinion poll, albeit a fairly expensive one. How will the southeastern and western parts of Ukraine vote? Will the election results deepen the division of Ukraine or start rapprochement between the two parts instead? If a candidate with a radical anti-Russian program wins, Ukraine will go down a blind alley. Most recently, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde said – not just to Ukrainians – that without cooperation with Russia Ukraine is not a viable state. As an EU citizen, I can only say that Ukraine cannot count on the European Union.
On the other hand, Russia must carefully consider its actions over Ukraine. It shouldn’t be concerned about more sanctions coming from the West, as they are toothless. Russia should make sure that no blood is shed in its relations with Ukraine. Spilled blood will drive a wedge between the nations, and re-building friendly and brotherly relations will be a difficult task. Every opportunity will be used to bring a Russophobic government to Kiev. Operation Crimea was a success. Russia should simply wait. Life will persuade Ukrainians that close cooperation with Russia is in their interest. Preferably, the candidate who wins the presidential elections in Ukraine should understand this.
Russia has an even more important problem. For almost all post-Soviet republics, the European Union holds more sway than Russia and pursues the policy of alienation of post-Soviet republics. That makes Russia react rather than act. Russia must change this. History teaches us that it is possible. Kievan Rus was much more civilized and developed than Europe. However, the Tatar invasion changed the situation in Russia and Europe. It’s imperative to restore Kievan Rus. Although this time this will come from Moscow.
Slovakia after presidential elections
The presidential elections in Slovakia were held in late March. In June, Andrej Kiska will become the new Slovak president. He defeated his rival, Prime Minister Robert Fico, in the second round. The candidacy of Fico raised many questions early in the campaign, since, according to the Slovak constitution, the functions of the prime minister are much stronger than the functions of the president. Fico explained his participation in the elections by his desire to make the three top officials – the president, the prime minister and the speaker of the parliament – work together rather than against each other. However, he accomplished exactly the opposite. At the final stage of the election campaign Fico and Kiska engaged in tough campaigning, and their cooperation as president and prime minister will not be easy. Fico’s party – SMER, the social-democratic party – enjoys an absolute majority in the parliament, but the president has certain powers in the area of foreign policy.
Andrej Kiska has no political experience whatsoever. He has a business background and is the founder and the director of a humanitarian organization. He started campaigning as an independent candidate, but in the end he received the support of almost all the right-wing parties. Throughout the campaign, his remarks were fairly pro-Atlantic. He is in favor of recognizing Kosovo (Slovakia is among five EU member states that have not recognized Kosovo), spoke against recognizing the referendum in Crimea and seeks to strengthen ties between Slovakia and NATO. Kiska will create an advisory group which will develop precisely such recommendations.
However, it’s important to understand that Slovakia is not a Russophobic state. Classic Slovak poet Jan Kollar wrote in the 19th century, “opri se o mocné to dubisko, jenž vzdoruje zhoubným až dosaváde časům” – “lean against a mighty oak that is impervious to the destructive effects of time.” This powerful oak is Russia. All high school students in Slovakia know this poem. I hope that the new president has not forgotten it as well.
The new president will take office on June 15. I would like him to be able to show, in his first 100 days, or maybe more, how his humanitarian background can be translated into firm policy.
Dr. Jan Čarnogurský is former Prime Minister of Slovakia.