Stano Daniel: Slovak Roma have to let themselves be beaten up now, otherwise the fascists will be elected
Among Romani people in Slovakia the feeling is prevailing that the biggest threat to their future is the fascist party chaired by Marian Kotleba. It is quite possible to agree with their sentiment.
The actual problem does not begin once his party wins elections, though. Kotleba's political career already is having catastrophic consequences today even though his "People's Party Our Slovakia" (Lidová strana Naše Slovensko - LSNS) is only coming in third in the polls.
It is because of this party that the cops in Slovakia are now beating up Romani children and women. Much has already been written about the inability of politicians to deal with the coexistence problems that arise between non-Romani and Romani people.
In our cultures, knowledge of Romani issues is something like being an expert on football or hockey. Everybody has an opinion, and everybody "knows" how these problems can be solved.
Despite the fact that there are areas where we are seeing improvements, the Slovak voter doesn't want to view such facts through the microscope needed to see them. Voters demand change that will be visible to the naked eye.
The situation is even more complicated because we speak in stereotypes. It will do no good to undertake an election campaign by documenting statistics and explaining that it is not Romani mothers who are responsible for the biggest segment of social security costs in Slovakia.
Slovak voters do not want data - they have their own opinions. By now, absolutely anything goes when it comes to what those opinions are.
The myth being circulated in Slovakia most frequently today is the myth of so-called "Romani criminality". Kotleba continues to pretend that he has the magic formula for "dealing with the Roma", despite the fact that he has never managed to accomplish anything, not in his role as Governor of the Banská Bystrica Region, and not as a member of the Slovak Parliament.
Kotleba's empty promises continue to bring new voters to the LSNS, despite its corrupt behavior. According to current polls, the party is now in third place after the social democrats in the party chaired by Slovak Prime Minister Fico and the liberals headed by MEP Sulík.
All of these politicians are beating each other down in order to win the racist votes that will be cast by those with the most simplistic worldviews. Fico will deny anything that is actually democratic or social and will begin to call Romani people "gypsies" if he succeeds at the ballot box, and the polices proposed by Sulík can be considered fascist without a doubt.
Sulík most recently hit the populist bottom of the barrel by saying that "We don't want a sixth or seventh child to be born to a Romani woman who has never worked." So we get to choose between being harassed by Fico, having the birth rate regulated by Sulík, or living with Kotleba's pure fascism.
Fico and Sulík might both actually hold fascist opinions as well. However, it is more likely that they just want "to do all they can to get votes".
While Sulík just makes stupid speeches, Fico is in the position to take action. It is clear that he needs to flex his muscles, especially before the upcoming regional elections.
The Slovak PM needs to show his ability to address "Romani criminality", to show his strength, and he has no problem when police officers are sent to Zborov to beat up all the Romani people there, children and women included. This recent incident is not the first time that the police have flexed their muscles in such a way.
Now the Police President (appointed by Fico's Smer-SD party) and the Interior Minister (vice-chair of Smer-SD) are defending the police officers' intervention in Zborov, and the Inspectorate (which is headed by the Interior Minister) is assessing that recent intervention as having been proportionate. The strongest party in the country wants to keep the police on its side and must demonstrate that it "knows how to deal with the Roma".
Fico, too, knows how to govern with an iron hand - not just Kotleba. We Roma have no other choice than to put up with this.
We have to let ourselves be beaten up by the police, because otherwise the straight-up fascists will win the next elections. If Slovak society does not believe that Fico already rules with an iron hand now, then it will elect Kotleba and fascism will arise overtly.
This time around it would be a different, a more modern approach. However, it would still be fascism.
That option is still worse than being governed by either Fico or Sulík. There is no better option on the horizon in Slovakia.
This might be the right time for Romani people to unite in Slovakia and vote as a bloc during the next elections. It would be fine to attempt this immediately, during the regional elections this autumn.
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