Sunday, May 06, 2007

Opposition leaders on Healthcare

Being in political opposition is an interesting position for politicians. It is fascinating at times, in its vagueness, while also providing the venue necessary for future aspirations. Most people might think of Winston Churchill’s ‘wilderness years’ as an example of a politician who benefited from the experience. Interestingly, Churchill was not active in politics at the time. Either was Ronald Reagan when he gave his “time for choosing” speech in 1964, sparking the interest of Republicans that cumulated sixteen years later with his nomination for the presidency.

Finding oneself in opposition after being in government is a much more difficult experience. One is forced to accept the loss while seeing your opponent’s smug face across from you. You may pout in the backbench as Mr Hague did in 1997 or sulk in rejected silence as fellow Tory and successor Mr Duncan-Smith did in 2001. It is a bit different in the United States though Mr Kerry’s performance post-Nov 2nd 2004 warrants mentioning. Opposition gives the Party or Party’s the duty to hold the government accountable. This is true in Slovakia though fiction is being created from fact.

Opposition leaders Mikuláš Dzurinda (SDKÚ), Pál Csáky (SMK) and Pavol Hrušovský (KDH) agreed at their meeting on May 3 that it is Prime Minister Robert Fico, rather than Health Minister Ivan Valentovič, who is to blame for the "miserable situation in the healthcare sector".

Economists and historians will tell you that there is a cycle of five to ten years to see the affects of specific governmental policies. The difficulties in the healthcare sector existed under the Dzurinda era too. It is a bit bold for Mr Dzurinda and fellow opposition leaders to place all responsibility on Mr Fico for within such blame lies the fallacy similar to the one Mr Fico has used taking credit within recent months of the strength of the Slovak economy. There is an overlap in policy execution from government to government that is seen over years not weeks. Interestingly, a point not commentated on by Mr Fico or Mr Valentovič.

The opposition has said it will not propose a no-confidence motion against Valentovič at the next parliamentary session due to begin on May 9. The parties will propose, however, a declaration obliging the cabinet to submit a report on "the miserable situation in the healthcare sector" to parliament. Such actions though appropriate for parliamentary procedure belie a fact the opposition seems to forget: you cannot fault the Prime Minister and then ask his Cabinet to answer before the Parliament. The Slovak Republic is a Parliamentary-style not a Presidential-style government. Questions and blame lay in the Cabinet. Yes, the prime minister is responsible for overall policy but questions on and blame for the execution of policy lies with respective ministers. Mr Valentovič should be no exception. That is why cabinet reshuffles are so anticipated and feared in British politics every time policy fails.

Anthony Eden, British Prime Minister following Churchill’s death did not repeal England’s National Health Service, legislation introduced under the Labour government of Clement Attlee, even though both Churchill and Eden opposed it from the other aisle when it had been debated in the Commons. The United State’s does not have a national health service, but an issue equally divisive is social security. Ridiculed by business and Republicans when Democrat Franklin Roosevelt introduced it as part of his ‘New Deal’, successive Republican Administrations have kept and expanded the system. The health sector in Slovakia, a homogenous remnant of socialism and a decade of democratic policy, is in need of cash and reform. It is hoped these facts will be remembered on May 9.

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