“Our party came forward with a vision of conciliatory policy, uniting our citizens FOR something, not AGAINST anyone or anything,” says the vice-chair of the HLAS-SD party and a member of the Slovak NC Richard Raši about the recent Slovak election.
The elections brought in an unexpected number of voters. Do you see this as an expression of discontent with how Slovakia is doing?
After three and a half years of Igor Matovič’s and Eduard Heger’s government, the people of Slovakia were not only extremely dissatisfied, but the Slovak society itself became extremely polarized. That’s why our party put forward a program meant to help people in need and get the economy moving at the same time. When it comes to public investments, Slovakia is behind by roughly a billion euros per year in comparison with the Czech Republic. And it is precisely regional investments that will not only help our economy, improving its performance, but should, within the next twelve years, also eliminate regional differences, which are massive in Slovakia. We believe we have managed to create a government and program that will prioritize lessening these differences.
Do you consider the outcome of the election proof that the Slovak people want a change?
Of course. Our citizens cast into the political past the party of the former Speaker of the Parliament Boris Kollár, but also that of the former Prime Minister Eduard Heger. Neither of these parties made it into the Parliament or even reached the three percent limit required to receive financial aid for further efforts. Even the former Prime Minister Igor Matovič’s party Obyčajní ľudia (Common People), which won the previous election and now made it into the Parliament only thanks to the vote of Roma communities, lost over 15 percent. The 2020 election clearly showed that when the people express support for loudmouths and activists who have never been in charge of anything more substantial than driving a car, the country suffers. That’s why I’m glad that aside from Matovič’s movement, which falsely promised 500 EUR to its voters for taking part in the election, only standard political parties made it into the Parliament.
SMER-SD won the election, you came in third, trailing behind Progressive Slovakia. And thus you became the most important deciding factor, as there was no forming a majority government without you...
While the other parties would effectively cancel each other out, there was no way to form a government without ours. Therefore, we had a pretty good starting position for negotiations. I believe that after these negotiations, which were and will continue to be very difficult, we’ll succeed at melding as much of our program as possible with the new government’s program. And I believe it will be stable enough to last the entire four years. Speaking for the HLAS-SD party, I can guarantee that we’ll only remain in a government that will preserve our pro-European stance, that will not want to exit NATO, and that will promise to fulfill a large part of our program. The fundamental idea being that the Slovak citizen is always number one – a person living in Slovakia who needs to know that the Slovak Republic, the strong country it is, will take care of them if need be.
The topics that resonate the most in Czechia are the Istanbul Convention, the war in Ukraine, marriage for all, dozens of genders, migration. What’s the situation like in Slovakia?
These are the very questions that polarize our society. But they’re also fair-weather questions, questions one asks when the country is doing well, when its economy is thriving, when there’s no unemployment crisis, when education and healthcare are working perfectly. However, the new government inherited a Slovakia with its economy on the brink of a downfall, where the previous governments were incapable of fully drawing on EU funding, where we couldn’t use the money that the EU provided to build new hospitals, or even rebuild the old ones. Instead, these previous governments spent their time preparing some sort of quasi-reform, where the only goal was destroying functioning regional hospitals. That’s why I maintain that the new government will not have the time to try and solve the questions of multiple genders, but rather will spend its time putting out the massive fires that Matovič and Heger left behind. Naturally, it will have to protect all citizens, including minorities. And that protection will have to include finding a way to safeguard our citizens from forbidden pesticide-ridden grain which has the power to destroy our farmers. The government will also have to consider the war in Ukraine in a responsible way, from a Slovak point of view. All the weapons we might have supplied Ukraine with we no longer have, but if the interest is there, we know how to build the military equipment that Ukraine needs to defend itself, but it will have to pay. At the same time, if one day, the country ends up meeting all the conditions required to enter the EU, it will present an opportunity for Slovakia to utilize the potential of our neighbor to the East. It’ll be similar to the Austrian border zone close to Bratislava, which used to be considered “the end of the world”, but is a truly blooming region now, where both Austrians and Slovaks want to live.
Are you worried about migration, which is steadily increasing?
The topic of migration is one of the burning ones. The Czech Republic established checkpoints on its border with Slovakia. But we have a southern border with Hungary, through which the migrants keep coming, with more holes than Swiss cheese, and all the government did was watch. Matovič’s chief of police, whose days in that position are numbered I believe, maintained that he would need tens of thousands of policemen to protect that border, but he was incapable of at least sending some policemen to stand guard at border crossings. Immediately after the change of government, Slovakia must make it perfectly clear to human traffickers that we will not tolerate economic migrants here, and they will spend months waiting in the proper facilities to have their identities confirmed. If this happens, I’m convinced that the migrant routes will change and veer away from Slovakia.
What will you be working on in the near future?
My long-term focus is clear. The topics are healthcare and primarily regional development. In Slovakia specifically, nearly half of the populace live in the countryside and we must help them. Hundreds of kilometers of plumbing must be built. For a city dweller, the idea of not having access to drinking water might be unthinkable, but that’s the sad reality of people in several of our regions.
Richard Raši (born April 2, 1971, in Košice) is a member of the Slovak NC and a former minister of healthcare.
In 1995, he finished his studies in general medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of the Pavel Jozef Šafárik University in Košice, later completing his specialization in surgery and a special exam in trauma surgery. In 2004, he received the title of Master of Public Health from the Slovak Medical University in Bratislava. In 2010, he finished his PhD studies at the Technical University of Košice.
In 1995, he started working at the Trauma Surgery Clinic at the L. Pasteur University Hospital in Košice, where he became the deputy director of preventive and therapeutic care in 2004. In 2007, he was appointed the director of the University Hospital Bratislava.
Between 2007 and 2010, he was a member of the SMER-SD party but then moved on to HLAS-SD. Starting in 2010, he spent eight years as the mayor of Košice and two years as the minister of healthcare. From 2018 to 2020, he was the deputy prime minister for investments and informatization.
He is married and has three daughters.