When, like this Thursday, headlines appear that Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová has opposed the continuation of military aid to Ukraine, it will understandably cause regret in some places.
Part of the Czechs who, after her victory in the presidential elections, latched onto Čaputová as the reincarnation of Václav Havel, may feel deep disappointment. And develop thoughts about why the popular Slovak president joined the dark side in shock at the result of the parliamentary elections.
Looking at it a little more pragmatically, Zuzana Čaputová’s gesture can be interpreted in at least two more sober ways, neither of which casts a bad light on the head of the Slovak state.
Firstly – Slovakia is just after the elections, in which Robert Fico, whom Čaputová entrusted with the formation of the government, won quite significantly. While Progressive Slovakia, to which the president is closest, finished below expectations due to the polls. The centerpiece of Fico’s Direction’s extremely disgusting, but effective campaign was the termination of military aid to Ukraine, as well as harsh, often obscene comments directed at the president.
The current government of Ľudovít Ódor, who led Slovaks to early elections after his appointment in May, is “official”. She did not pass the election, after repeated political crises, it was Zuzana Čaputová who chose her, so to speak, on her T-shirt. In addition, the government has not even won the confidence of the parliament, and for the past five months it has been ruling in a fairly emergency regime with very shaky legitimacy.
The Slovak head of state – although in terms of constitutional powers as weak or weaker compared to his Czech counterpart – therefore bears the full weight of political responsibility on his shoulders not only for everything that has happened in Slovakia since May, but also for the current transfer of power after regular democratic elections .
Their outcome established a complicated political game. And in this game, it is still unlikely, but not excluded, the possibility of forming a government without Fico’s Direction, but with Progressive Slovakia. So the president has not only her constitutional role in this game, but also her political interests.
If the Odor government, with the blessing of Čaputová, were to give Ukraine another package of military aid at this moment, it would give Fico, who is negotiating with the government with openly pro-Russian nationalists and the maneuvering Hlas, a strong argument in the negotiations: The faster and smoother the agreement is, the sooner we will withdraw from to power the government of the “American lady” who, regardless of the elections, continues to push pro-Ukrainian policy.
When Čaputová supported Ódor in the plan to suspend aid to Ukraine, she took this argument from Fico. To some extent, this weakened his negotiating position vis-à-vis possible coalition partners. And every weakening of Fico’s position by a hair increases the (still small) chance that Fico will not follow through on his negotiations, the Voice will turn away from him and choose a government variant with progressives. For Čaputova, the suspension of aid to Ukraine is therefore a card in a complex and fragile political game.
However, her gesture can be viewed not only through pure political pragmatism, but also with a certain idealism. The political forces and values that Čaputová represents were defeated in the parliamentary elections. The decision not to take important steps during inter-governments, especially those that contradict the program that won the elections, can be taken as an example of a high political culture.
Rather, the Czech tradition dictates that the end of governance be sweetened if possible with irreversible political or personal steps, or that the successors should be soaped up.
Neither Čaputová nor Ódor did that. They correctly assessed that the government, nota bene bureaucratic and without trust, should really not – in the words of a classic – embark on any major actions after the elections.
The suspension of aid to Ukraine is certainly unpleasant especially for the regime in Kyiv, but also for all those who wish and support the Ukrainians in their struggle. At the same time, it is a gesture of respect for parliamentary democracy and the election results. And that makes him seem very likeable.