Topless women, fine Italian suits, and two undisclosed murders… and no this isn’t about a Hollywood movie. The current political climate in Slovakia has gone from deleterious to deplorable in a matter of weeks. For some years it’s been known the syndicate, ‘Ndrangheta, a part of the Italian mafia, holds a dominant position in the European drug market as well as other illicit arenas for weapon trafficking, fraud, extortion and most other proscribed activities. Relations between the Italian syndicate and Slovakian officials have recently been in the spotlight after the murder of 27-year-old Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova in their apartment on February 25. Mr. Muciak, an investigative reporter, is suspected to have been silenced to conceal the governments involvement in organized crime. If this is indeed the case, it would seem the cover-up might have been a shot in the foot.
This past weekend Bratslava, Slovakia has seen tens of thousands of supporters take the streets in a show of solidarity, whilst demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico and his coalition government. Protests were spurred by Kuciak’s unfished article, released by Akuality.sk (Kuciak’s employer), which described alleged ‘Ndrangheta members business ventures in Slovakian agriculture and real estate sectors, as well as potential business ties to a chief state advisor, Maria Troskova and the Secretary of Slovakia’s Security Council, Viliam Jasan.
Kuciak’s investigation began with Maria Troskova; a former Miss Universe contestant and topless model who became an aid to Viliam Jasan and then to Prime Minister Fico. According to the 2013 Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Troskova was a pervious business partner of Antonnio Vadal, whom the Italian government suspects has ties with the ‘Ndrangheta. If Maria Troskova’s position wasn’t odd enough, Fico’s press team also refused to report her job description making a lot wonder what she is really doing in government.
To combat government criticism and subdue the press, Fico addressed the public stating, “Do not link innocent people without any evidence to a double homicide. It’s crossing the line. It’s no longer funny.” Fico’s comments came as no surprise as he’s known to have an antagonistic relationship with the press, referring to journalists as “hyenas” and “prostitutes.” Fico’s dogmatic attitude towards the press and the suspicious nature of Kuciak and his fiancés death has led many to question how free and fair Fico’s regime really is. There is no doubt that suppression of the press and of free speech is an egregious deterioration of personal liberates and can lead to democratic erosion. Fico’s persistent attitude towards the media coupled with a potential Mafioso in his government makes it seem like he’s trying to run an authoritarian administration behind closed doors.
The Slovakian political system is poorly designed allowing room for autocratic leaders to immerge. The current Judicial has limited independence from the government making it difficult to monitor and regulate the legislative. This enables coalition governments to pass laws with little to no contestation and deflect all potential accountability. With both a quasi-independent judicial and a government that suppresses public media, Slovakia is extremely vulnerable to democratic backsliding.
So, what does this all mean for the future of Slovakia? As of now, people have come forward in masses against the government, successfully pressuring the Interior Minister, Maria Troskova, and Prime Minister Fico all to resign. This is a step in the right direction, but with Slovakia’s systemized shortcomings and Fico’s three-party government presumably remaining in power, there are still many hurdles to overcome if democracy is to survive. The new government leaders must push for institutional transparency empowering citizens to hold officials accountable for poor policies and impose changes when needed.
It will be interesting to see how in the coming weeks the political climate in Slovakia adjusts. Will the new leadership condemn all corruption and implement policy to prohibit it? Or will the Slovakian democracy continue to deteriorate into Authoritarian oblivion? As of now, it’s anyone’s guess. It is now up to the Slovakian population to keep the pressure high and demand uncorrupt representation. These horrific killings, while nefarious and tragic, might end up being the sole reason a quality democracy emerges in Slovakia. This heinous act served as a call to action, inspiring the population to fight for their rights and take the necessary steps to ensure they live in a free and fair democracy.
- Deutsche Welle. “Slovakia: Mafia Ties and Journalist’s Murder Threaten to Bring down Government | Europe| News and Current Affairs from around the Continent | DW | 12.03.2018.” DW.COM, www.dw.com/en/slovakia-mafia-ties-and-journalists-murder-threaten-to-bring-down-government/a-42946828.
- Germanova, Miroslava, and Richard PÉrez-peÑa. “Murdered Slovak Reporter Sought to Expose Italian Organized Crime.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 Feb. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/world/europe/slovakia-journalist-murder.html.
- Kuciak, Ján, and CCIJ. “The Model, the Mafia, and the Murderers.” OCCRP, www.occrp.org/en/amurderedjournalistslastinvestigation/the-model-the-mafia-and-the-murderers.
- RFE/RL. “Slovak Prime Minister Fico Offers Resignation.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 14 Mar. 2018, www.rferl.org/a/slovakia-prime-minister-fico-offers-resignation-kuciak/29099338.html.
- Santora, Marc, and Miroslava Germanova. “Ex-Model, Mob Suspect and a Murder Could Bring Down Slovakia’s Government.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Mar. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/world/europe/slovakia-journalist-killing-protests.html.
- “Slovakia Journalist Murder: Interior Minister Resigns.” BBC News, BBC, 12 Mar. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43371821.
- Solutions, EIU Digital. “Slovakia.” Democracy Index, country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=1915068975.
*Picture obtained from Midland Daily News