Interviews

Erik Kaliňák: Slovaks realized the qualities of Robert Fico under Matovic’s rule

Published: 21. 4. 2021
Author: Luboš Palata
Photo: Photo archives of Erik Kaliňák
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It has been just recently that the young 28-year-old, Erik Kaliňák got fully engaged in politics. Last year, he ran for SMER, listed as the last - 150th candidate. However, he is the party's vice-chairman, in charge of communication and more. He assesses events and people with unusual directness.

Before last year's parliamentary elections, you were very confident and predicted the rapid great return of Smer, After one year, the opposition of the ruling party is fighting, but it is not Smer, but Hlas, led by Peter Pellegrini. Why are they leading in the polls and not Smer?

I was convinced of the rapid return of social democracy, and this was confirmed to the last letter. Right-wing parties in Slovakia have historically had huge personality problems and cannot be united when they come to power. If Smer–Social Democracy had remained united after the elections, we have around 25 to 30 percent today. Unfortunately, in the spring, Peter Pellegrini preferred his solo project to the long-planned replacement of the party leader, who literally raised him from an assistant MP to a prime minister.

Isn't Robert Fico already past it?

In a country full of capable politicians and strong personalities, it could be said that he is past it. But we are in Slovakia and after a year of Igor Matovič's ‘reign’, even the biggest opponents of Robert Fico are fully aware of his qualities such as expertise, diligence or professionalism. This makes him a top politician who certainly hasn’t said the last word.

Can you imagine Smer's cooperation with Hlas in some next Slovak government?

As both parties are the bearers of the ideas of social democracy, we should logically be the closest allies. But since the Hlas party is likely to win the election this time, it will be Peter Pellegrini who will decide what kind of government he wants to lead. From several of his statements, it can be felt that he also sees his potential allies in parties such as SAS, or Progresívne Slovensko...

On the other hand, we have seen the steep fall of Igor Matovič. Did you expect the winner of the election to become one of the least credible politicians in just a year?

Actually, yes. Igor Matovič is a great media marketer who can really drive crowds or masses of people crazy for a while. He doesn’t shy away from misleading, deceiving or even using murder news to his benefit. However, leading a country requires more than just deceptive suggestive marketing. To do this, you need a functional party, not an eight-sided conglomerate on the edge of the law. You also need willingness to finish things, not just present them magnificently to the press. But most of all, you have to be a personality who can unite and motivate people, not slander them, dictatorially command them and even intimidate them.

What are the biggest mistakes made by the government led by Matovič? What do you think has made Slovakia a country with one of the largest numbers of deaths with COVID?

There is a huge number of Igor Matovič's mistakes, but as far as the pandemic is concerned, I see two key failures. Despite claiming the opposite everywhere, he completely ignores experts. At a time when everyone was calling for a lockdown as the most effective weapon against the pandemic, Matovič invented nationwide "voluntary" testing with antigen tests, which are not even designed for it. Although he did not succeed in this experiment, he was literally obsessed with it, stubbornly pushing it on, even though it is clear to everyone that it doesn’t work and rather the opposite is true, that is it contributes to the spread of the illness. Nevertheless, we are witnessing weekly manoeuvers throughout the country during "screening" testing. The second, more fundamental mistake is that people who test positive result were literally left to fight the virus on their own. Apart from compulsory isolation, we have no instructions or recommendations on how to fight it. Matovič's government completely disregarded any treatment - it didn’t prepare any guidelines, nor did it give doctors permission in time to prescribe drugs that are used abroad, and it didn’t arrange for their import. Simply said, Slovakia has gone through natural selection enhanced by the increased mobility due to country-wide screening tests.

You say that your uncle Robert Kaliňák was the best minister of interior in Slovak history. Do you believe that despite the huge wave of arrests in the police and other bodies of the Ministry of the Interior now?

The arrests happening in Slovakia during the tenure of Igor Matovič will forever be recorded in the history of Slovakia as an immense shame. Theatrical arrests by officers in hoods, knocking out doors early in the morning, traumatized injured children, collapsing old women during interventions, even in the presence of journalists and cameras, public threats to political opponents to quietly sit in the corner shaking and wait for NAKA to take them, something Slovakia had never experienced and I firmly believe that it will not experience again. Not to mention the reasons for detention, when it is almost exclusively about testimonies of penitents, i.e. the accused, who try to reduce their own charge by throwing dirt on others. The fact is that Robert Kaliňák was the best Minister of the Interior in the history of Slovakia, I now think even more firmly and decisively than ever before. This is an opinion that I often hear from police officers and firefighters, that is, from the most professional people to evaluate the interior ministers – that is from their subordinates.

The author is the editor of the Deník

No regrets

Erik Kaliňák is 28 years old and belongs to the promising, new faces of the SMER–Social Democracy Party. Maybe he could be further now, but a year ago he ran for it from the position of 150th. Doesn't he regret it? And what does he really enjoy about politics? " I do not regret it, on the contrary, I would like to repeat it. Every vote you get from such a place is 100% yours and you will avoid doubts whether your "success" is not about being at the top of the list of candidates. In politics I enjoy the discussions with citizens the most. Often their observations and ideas from real life go beyond theoretical lessons from political philosophy."

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