Interviews

František Mikloško: If I refused, I’d be walking away from a fight

Publikováno: 16. 11. 2023
Autor: Luboš Palata
Foto: archives of František Mikloško
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For twenty consecutive years at the break of the 21st century, František Mikloško was an MP. After thirteen years since his last mandate, he’s coming back to the National Council of the Slovak Republic. Full of vitality, strong opinions, and a sense of perspective, regardless of his age.

You’re coming back to the Slovak Parliament after a long time. Why is that, when you surely deserve some peace and rest?
You’re right. I’m 76 years old. God willing, I’ve got about four years of active life ahead of me. And I mean to spend those in the Parliament, on the political battlefield. In the last couple of years that I was outside of politics, people actually started being nice and friendly to me in the streets. These days I’ve once again started getting insulting letters, and I'm actually encountering problems in the streets again. So why did I decide to do this? When the leadership of the KDH party contacted me, I felt that if I refused in this particular political situation, I’d be walking away from a fight. I experienced these feelings and decisions before, during communism. Only time will tell.

Robert Fico’s SMER-SD party won the election, even though his voters knew very well about the corruption scandals he was a part of. How do you explain that?
During Mečiar’s reign, a certain Western ambassador to Slovakia told me that the issue the EU governments had wasn’t whether or not to accept Mečiar’s Slovakia into the EU, but rather the fact that despite having known about the abduction of the president’s son and the wild privatization, people still voted for the HZDS to such an extent. Putting it mildly, we might call this a short experience and memory of democracy in Slovakia. But another deciding factor in this election was the chaotic and incompetent reign of the previous government, and also that, towards the end of the campaign, as the results seemed to favor either Smer or Progressive Slovakia, PS and its core values negatively polarized a large part of the country.

František Mikloško announcing at a press conference that he will run again after a 13-year political hiatus. KDH Chairman Milan Majerský in the background.

You’ve been a leading representative of Christian politics all your life. Over half of Slovakia’s citizens are catholic, but Christian parties skirt the bottom of the popularity ladder. Even now, KDH barely made it into the Parliament. Why is that?
The Slovak catholic faith is strong and united when it has an enemy. During the first republic, that meant battling Czech progressivism, during communism it was battling aggressive atheism. It gets worse when there’s power or freedom. It had power during the wartime Slovak Republic, and it didn’t end well. We’ve got freedom now, and it only showcases our instability. We’re regionally divided: around Topolčany, where Andrej Hlinka used to win, Vladimír Mečiar took over after 1989, and it’s Robert Fico these days. Orava and a large part of the East are faithful to the KDH. The center of the country also leans more towards the leader capable of “protecting us.” Even some priests and bishops are divided. We’re missing a catholic, intellectual, and trendsetting elite. Official media are satisfied with everyday human piety. Aside from a social battle here in Slovakia, we’re also fighting a separate one for the face of Slovak catholicism in the free world.

The Roma make up a significant Christian community in Slovakia. Do you consider the church’s pastoral efforts among them sufficient, and the support of the community for Christian parties adequate? That’s half a million Slovak citizens we’re talking about...
In January of 1990, the newly elected President Havel and I visited a certain Romani community in eastern Slovakia. It was raining, our feet kept slipping while walking down the riverbank. I remember the look on Václav Havel’s face when he saw what life was like in this community. It’s been 33 years since then, and some things at least have moved forward. The church in Slovakia does its utmost in terms of pastoral care for the Roma. As do a lot of organizations in the tertiary sector, and even mayors of communities where the Roma live. The government and the European Union both support various projects. This of course doesn’t fully cover the needs and issues in the life of this community. The KDH doesn’t have a program dedicated to this matter. Speaking long term, this issue can’t be solved unless all the factors I just mentioned are in accord.

With fellow candidates Monika Kolejáková and Jozef Hajko at a pre-election rally.

What are your feelings, watching the papacy of Pope Francis? Are the steps he’s been taking received with understanding and an open mind among Slovakia’s church and believers?
I am a Pope Francis devotee. Even in all his physical weakness, he brings a prophet’s words and a tiny little light of hope for the workings of the church in an ever-increasingly secular world. Pope Francis makes me believe that Christianity will one day be a key support structure once again for the quaking European civilization. His distinctive approach to every single human being with their life and issues fills me with hope that the church is now coming back to the beginnings of Jesus’ own work when he would read the prophet Isaiah’s works in a temple. The Pope’s calls to accept migrants fill me with the premonition that the developed Western world won’t be able to stem the great tide of migration after all. The Pope has a lot of supporters in Slovakia, but I feel like the church in general is somewhat nonplussed by him. The Pope’s words and actions often meet with nothing more than polite silence here in Slovakia.

You have a degree in mathematics. How do you reconcile faith and science?
I grew up in a family where church life meant celebrating the joy of Christian holidays and pious life within the church. Of course, I must add that during the battle for the freedom of the church during communism, there was no time to ask questions like these. Never in my life have I experienced a crisis of faith because of science. Some of the fundamental questions of faith that I can’t answer rationally, I answer in my heart simply by believing in God and trusting him. I try to keep reading, and I’m always happy to learn something new when it comes to understanding the Bible, and faith in general. Now that I’m old, I derive the most joy and comfort in prayer and the evening silent holy mass in the Jesuit church in Bratislava.

The author is a European editor for Deník

CV BOX
František Mikloško (born July 2, 1947, in Nitra) is a newly elected member of the Slovak NC for the KDH, as an independent candidate. He’s the younger brother of Jozef Mikloško, the former prime minister of the CSFR government.
He graduated in mathematics from the Comenius University Faculty of Natural Sciences, worked at the Cybernetics Institute in the field of numerical mathematics between the years 1971 and 1983, but then ended up as a laborer because he took an active part in dissent.
He was an activist of the so-called “secret church”, and was one of the organizers of Bratislava’s Great Friday in 1989 (more commonly known as the Candle Rally).
Immediately in November 1989, he became a member of the Coordination Committee of Public Against Violence and joined the KDH in 1992. Between 1990 and 2010, he was a member of the Slovak National Council and the National Council of the Slovak Republic.
He left KDH in 2008 and became the founding member of the Conservative Democrats of Slovakia party. He stayed there until 2014. He ran for President three times (in 2004, 2009 and 2019).
František Mikloško is married, he likes art, poetry, and dry white wine, he’s enjoyed doing sports all his life.

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