For decades, the Communist governments of East-Central Europe held elections. And for decades, these elections produced more-or-less the same results. The Communist Party candidates – or the candidates of the parties aligned with the Party – won the elections by absurd margins. The Party in Hungary was the poorest performer in this regard. In the 1980 election, it won with only 99.3 percent of the vote. Its fraternal parties in neighboring countries generally captured 99.9 percent of the vote.
The first multi-party elections in East-Central Europe in nearly 50 years took place in 1990. They coincided with a global upsurge in election monitoring. Outside observers flocked to the region to observe those first elections – in East Germany in March, in Hungary in April, in Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia in June, and so on. Reports by U.S. election observers are available here.
Gradually, NGOs within the countries developed the capacity to monitor their own elections. This became a critical issue in Slovakia heading into the 1998, with the country’s prime minister, Vladimir Meciar, taking the country in a more authoritarian direction. There was a growing concern that Meciar, in a throwback to the Communist era, would manipulate electoral outcomes to remain in power. The National Democratic Institute offered funding for organizations working on free and fair elections in Slovakia. Young activist Maros Gabriel took them up on the offer.
“With some young people I founded Civic Eye in 1998, just three months before the elections,” he told me in a conversation in Bratislava last February. “We created Civic Eye as an ad hoc organization only to organize election monitoring with election observers for the 1998 elections. This kind of election work wasn’t present in Slovakia at the time — or in Hungary or in Poland. But it was something that we knew was happening in Russia and the Balkans. I thought it was a good idea to show young people the correct practices and ensure that the elections wouldn’t be manipulated. This was our attempt to improve the process.”
We were joined by Alexander Matus, who worked at Civic Eye that year as a volunteer. “The 1998 elections went well for me and for my generation,” he added. “Things changed in 1998. The demand for election monitoring, domestically, gradually vanished. There is now a basic trust in the results of our elections even though there are some flaws that need to be addressed. There have been some cases involving shady political campaign financing. And there have been some constitutional court judgments overturning election results. But those have been around municipal elections. For the parliamentary elections, there’s never been a political demand for election observers at the level of 1998.”
Success has its hazards. Election monitors had done such a good job in Slovakia that they nearly did themselves out of jobs altogether. “After a few years, the demand for this kind of activities disappeared, together with the funding for this kind of activity,” Matus continued. “NGOs had to find another arena. If you really wanted to continue with election monitoring, you had a good chance to do it at an international level by transferring the knowledge acquired in the late 1990s to other countries. Former Yugoslavia, Ukraine, and Belarus were the most natural countries where we could continue our election-oriented work. So, that’s what we’ve done for the last 10 years and more: focusing our activities on an international basis.”
The work has brought them both around the world. “Our full-time work is for the EU/OSCE as election experts, and we’ve worked in the former Soviet Union, Sierra Leone, Pakistan,” Gabriel explained. “I’ve worked as a political analyst for different election missions for the EU/OSCE. It’s the same with Sasha. At home we’re trying to do small projects with our NGOs, working in support of NGOs in Tunisia or Egypt and before that in Ukraine with the help of official Slovak aid or international assistance. This is meaningful work, but it’s ad hoc.”
We talked about how competitive election monitoring has become, the degree of tolerance in Slovak society, and what it’s like to live in a world of greys.
What do you remember of the events of November 1989 here in Bratislava?
Maros Gabriel: It was a time when a lot was happening at university. In Czechoslovakia, from September 1989 until the revolution in November, there was a lot of discussion. You could feel that something was going to happen. Honestly, though, I didn’t think things could change so quickly, especially in Czechoslovakia. I was just thinking about what was happening in the region and how it could affect our lives. Then it came, the student revolution in Czechoslovakia, and we were part of it.
Do you remember specifically what you did?
Maros Gabriel: I was studying so-called Marxism. During my studies, you could feel that the whole department of Marxism and scientific Communism was collapsing. The revolution came, and I was part of the crowd on the very first day. I joined together with the students who were more informed. I don’t know if they were part of the dissident movement, but they had connections. They started the revolution as leaders, and there was a group of students who joined them on the first day. I was lucky to be part of that group, even though I didn’t know the meeting was going to happen. That first day was an opening for all of us to talk openly. That day was enough for me to understand that Communism was over, at least at the university, and in my life as well.
What happened to your course of studies?
Maros Gabriel: We contacted Professor Kusý, one of the well-known dissidents in Slovakia. He was a former professor of Marxism but had spent 20 years outside of the university. We asked him if he could be the new director of our department and help change it from Marxism to political science. That was one of our first activities as students: to change the curriculum at the university. Formally, this process lasted about a year. Informally, my entire five years at university were a transformation process. If I could return to that day, I would have stopped my university studies and gone somewhere abroad to study the same subject at another university. I don’t want to say that it was completely useless, but it was not as good as it could be.
Alexander Matus: I didn’t study political science. I was studying economics. I was involved in the student revolutionary movement, but I was not one of the leaders. I was not talking — I was attending. I didn’t attend the very first meeting on November 17. But beginning on day two, there were huge meetings daily in the main square in Bratislava with 100,000 people. The weather was very similar to what we are having today: snowy. At least in the first week after November 17, the numbers were increasing. There were too many people to be controlled. So, we knew that we couldn’t be fooled again with some kind of reform of the existing Communist rule. Within a few days, it was quite clear that it would be a big change and not something on the surface that would preserve the Communist party in power with minor changes after a deal with the opposition
I participated for weeks in those demonstrations and rallies. You can imagine how frozen we were after a few hours standing outside. All this was followed by several hours of heated discussion in the pubs about the political changes and which direction to go and our expectations. Later on, the student movement became much more inclusive, as it became a political movement of all layers of society. We had very high expectations. We were comparing ourselves with our immediate neighbor, Austria. Vienna, after all, is very close. But Austria is a pretty well developed country to use for comparison. We always fell short of the standards there. More recently, the Czech Republic has become our first reference point.
Did you have a similar experience of transformation in the economics department?
Alexander Matus: Every department in every university had a political aspect. There were compulsory subjects at all universities consisting of Marxism-Leninism, scientific Communism, or, in my case, political economy. I was in my last year at university. Two or three political subjects were omitted from the curriculum. So, I only did the specific economic subject for the final thesis and the final exams. All my study at the economics unit was based on the socialist model. Communism wasn’t achieved at the time, they told us: we were still only struggling to achieve Communism. We weren’t told anything about the market economy. So, the best thing was to collect the diploma and then quickly forget everything you’d been studying for the previous four years. If you wanted to earn your living by doing economics, then you quickly learned the new policy and forgot all the old things.
In all those discussions in the pubs after the demonstrations, did anyone talk about forming a youth party like Fidesz in Hungary?
Alexander Matus: This came a bit later. The first weeks were about changing the regime. People were not sure which way things would go. Students from families that held positions in the state structure were not immediately jumping into the new way because things might not change. It took a few weeks. When it finally became clear that things were going to change and there would be the first free elections after 50 years, some of the student leaders were contemplating not to create a youth party but rather to become members of what was called Public Against Violence (PAV), which was a national front type organization similar to Civic Forum in the Czech Republic. PAV included several student leaders. The only other parties created at that time were nationalist or Christian Democratic parties. We didn’t have a youth party as such. But representatives of the student movement were in the candidate mix in the first elections.
You said that you both grew up in the same town. Were you friends growing up?
Alexander Matus: We met when we were six years old. We started at the same primary school. By age eight or nine, we were friends. We’ve known each other for 35 years.
Was there any point when you started talking politics with one another? Or did that only happen later?
Alexander Matus: I come from a family that talked a lot about politics, well before 1989. Yes, I think we talked about politics in secondary school from 1982 to 1986 where we were classmates.
You said that you didn’t think the changes would happen so quickly. What did you think your life would be like as you entered university?
Maros Gabriel: We were both born in 1968. We finished secondary school in 1986, and 1989 was the revolution. During these two or three years between finishing secondary school and the revolutionary moment, I had the feeling that this society was not going anywhere beyond stagnation. I thought we would just live the life of our parents, with perhaps a slightly different color. We’d seen how in 1968, the reforms were stopped, so we didn’t think the Russians would allow any quick change — even as Central Europe was changing. I thought that they would stop the transformation process or at least make it last longer because they didn’t want to let us go. It all started with perestroika, which created a different atmosphere after 1985 or 1986. But people were still thinking that it wasn’t going to change here because, at the end of the day, the Russians were more backwards and would not let us go. That’s what this bloody Cold War was all about. That’s why I didn’t believe that the change would come so quickly. But when we saw later the changes in Warsaw, we had the feeling that maybe something had to happen.
What was the first indication for you after 1989 that what was going to happen here in Slovakia would be different than in the Czech Republic, that you would have the emergence of a strong, nationalist, semi-authoritarian leader and movement? Was there a point when you started to worry about that?
Alexander Matus: This nationalism was not a new thing. It was lying under the surface. It wasn’t talked about in public during the Communist rule: it was a taboo topic. But you could feel it. There were people who were not happy to live in Czechoslovakia. There were a lot of complaints from both sides, to be honest, that “we are wasting our money” on the other nation. However, under the socialist-communist economy, it was difficult to distinguish who was subsidizing whom. There were no figures available from tax collection or budget allocation from which you could say who was benefiting and who was not.
Also, unlike in the Czech Republic, most of the dissent in Slovakia was either nationalist or Christian. Slovak independence, as you know from the history of the Slovak state from 1938 to 1945, was largely linked to religion. There were very few civic dissident activists. Not all of these dissidents openly supported separation, but at least they were sympathetic to it and not opposing it.
For me, what was unexpected was that in two or three years after the revolution, we had two new states. It was quicker than I expected.
What made you decide to get involved politically? Was there a particular moment or event? You could have gone abroad or taken a job. But you decided to become involved in political activism.
Maros Gabriel: In my case, I wanted to study politics because I always wanted to become involved in politics. Even under the former regime, I wanted to get involved in order to change it. I had an idea as a young naive guy to change the world in a positive direction. It was also for me an interesting way to have a career.
After I studied at the Central European University in Budapest, I came back to Slovakia in 1996-7. I obviously was very angry at what was happening in Slovakia. I felt that I needed to do something against Vladimir Meciar’s regime. Of course, this was a time when I was making a decision about my life and career. I couldn’t go to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not during that type of government: I would have felt ashamed. I wouldn’t have supported the government at all. It wasn’t what I wanted Slovakia to look like.
So, I joined a civil society organization, something called the Slovak Foreign Policy Association. As an NGO person, I had an opportunity to meet many different people. I was thinking about what we could do in 1998 when I heard about this initiative of NGO leaders by Pavol Demes and others who were trying to organize a united front against Meciar in the elections. I was the person in our NGO who served as a liaison to this.
I also received an offer at that time from the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which was present here and was offering money to those who wanted to organize activities related to free and fair elections. I thought that was an interesting idea. So, with some young people I founded Civic Eye in 1998, just three months before the elections. We created Civic Eye as an ad hoc organization only to organize election monitoring with election observers for the 1998 elections. This kind of election work wasn’t present in Slovakia at the time — or in Hungary or in Poland. But it was something that we knew was happening in Russia and the Balkans. I thought it was a good idea to show young people the correct practices and ensure that the elections wouldn’t be manipulated. This was our attempt to improve the process.
It was quite successful. Since then, we decided to continue to do other activities. As a new NGO we had support from international donors and Slovak society as well. We had a lot of young volunteers. We wanted to continue to use this energy. Even if they never said if they were against the Meciar regime or not, it was more or less obvious that the young generation supported the idea that the elections should be free and fair and were against the manipulation of the media and political pressure by the government.
Alexander Matus: I’d never been a full-time NGO guy. I always had a normal job. At the end of 1990s, NGO activities were my after-work, part-time hobby. I had a job with one of the UN agencies that had a regional office here. Since I was close friends with Maros I was also active in the NGO area as well. Most of the NGOs then and even now were on a part-time basis with only a few professionals running the office. But the election monitoring exercise in 1998 involved more than 2,000 people, mostly students or recent school graduates who wanted to contribute to some change. I participated a lot but only as a volunteer activist. Again, I was not one of the leaders.
After a while the situation changed. The 1998 elections went well for me and for my generation. Things changed in 1998. The demand for election monitoring, domestically, gradually vanished. There is now a basic trust in the results of our elections even though there are some flaws that need to be addressed. There have been some cases involving shady political campaign financing. And there have been some constitutional court judgments overturning election results. But those have been around municipal elections. For the parliamentary elections, there’s never been a political demand for election observers at the level of 1998.
So, after a few years, the demand for this kind of activities disappeared, together with the funding for this kind of activity. NGOs had to find another arena. If you really wanted to continue with election monitoring, you had a good chance to do it at an international level by transferring the knowledge acquired in the late 1990s to other countries. Former Yugoslavia, Ukraine, and Belarus were the most natural countries where we could continue our election-oriented work. So, that’s what we’ve done for the last 10 years and more: focusing our activities on an international basis. And I joined our NGO full time in 2004.
Are there any examples from the 1998 elections of major election irregularities that occurred or didn’t occur because you had observers present?
Maros Gabriel: It’s difficult to say. It would be too much to say that our project of election monitoring prevented some fraud. We didn’t receive accreditation to be present at the counting of the votes. But we brought together a lot of people who joined this process in order to take a stand. What was important was to create this atmosphere in which a majority of people in this country cared and didn’t want to be cheated. In that atmosphere it was not possible to cheat or achieve significant electoral fraud. The political parties also participated in creating this atmosphere. There were two opposition networks. One, SDK, won the elections. The Left party, SDL, also had a large network of activists that were present at the polling stations. A lot of NGO people joined the political parties to work inside the polling stations as nominees. So, it was really not possible to change the electoral results, at least at the level of the polling station. There would have been a big protest, and it would have been political suicide for the ruling party. There were some fears that the government would put pressure on the media, that it would put pressure on people in the countryside to support the ruling party or else lose their jobs. We had to address these myths by pointing out that the opposition is strong and telling people not to be afraid. It was the last year that people were afraid to say who they voted for.
You talked about transferring the knowledge gained here to other countries. Can you boil down the lessons that you transferred?
Alexander Matus: It was mainly about domestic election observation. With the support of the donors — which were at that time Slovak Aid (Slovakia’s official international aid agency), NDI, Open Society, Freedom House — we sponsored a lot of initiatives to transfer the knowledge initially to Serbia and later on to Ukraine and Belarus. The 2000 elections in Serbia and the 2004 elections in Ukraine were turning points in the political development of those two countries. We also did a project in Montenegro and some smaller projects in Belarus. But the political climate in Belarus has not been very conducive to international activities within the country. So, mostly with Serbian and Ukrainian and Montenegrin NGOs, we focused mainly on organizing the domestic network of election observers — how to recruit, train, and deploy them and then collect information from the field, make a statement, make a final assessment of the elections, make a media presentation, and show the public that you are everywhere watching and listening and deterring fraud.
It’s difficult to speculate what would have happened here in Slovakia in 1998 if we were not there. You can only judge by what happened. If it went well, then you can claim all the success. But what would have happened if we were not in all the polling stations is difficult to say. Perhaps the fears had been exaggerated. In the end, the elections went well, and more importantly the next elections went well too. Even if there is still strong polarization in society, no one is really questioning the election-day results. There have been accusations of parties putting political pressure on government employees or buying votes from marginalized groups or misusing state funds for political campaigns. But there is no questioning of the process as such — the voting and counting. Everyone has accepted the parliamentary results after every election since 1998. At least in this aspect, we matured — though at the cost of a very low turnout with a lot of people completely disillusioned.
What was the turnout in the last election?
Alexander Matus: Just over 50 percent.
That would be fine in the United States, but I understand that it’s not so good here.
Alexander Matus: We started in 1989 with 90-plus percent and went steadily down from there. The only reverse was in 1998 when there was a big surge with over 80 percent turnout. But since then it has again steadily decreased. We had an infamously low turnout for the European Parliament elections. It was below 20 percent. And this was the first European parliament elections for Slovakia after joining the EU.
You’d think people would be excited to have this opportunity to vote.
Alexander Matus: Nobody expected a high turnout. But 19 percent or so was really quite low.
Did either or both of you go to another country to do this work?
Maros Gabriel: You contacted us through our NGO, which still exists. But you can see from our report that we are not full-time workers there. Our full-time work is for the EU/OSCE as election experts, and we’ve worked in the former Soviet Union, Sierra Leone, Pakistan. I’ve worked as a political analyst for different election missions for the EU/OSCE. It’s the same with Sasha. At home we’re trying to do small projects with our NGOs, working in support of NGOs in Tunisia or Egypt and before that in Ukraine with the help of official Slovak aid or international assistance. This is meaningful work, but it’s ad hoc.
There is still a lot of space to be politically active at home. But we are not able either to find money or people to do this work. We no longer have any volunteers, not for the last four or five years. Now it’s just a group of guys who are interested in doing these small projects in Slovakia. It can change. It can grow. But it can also completely collapse. It’s not our main task or source of income.
How crowded is the profession? As consultants do you have to submit a bid? Are you competing with a lot of organizations?
Maros Gabriel: Yes. We are even competing with each other!
Alexander Matus: It’s very competitive. There are several organizations that do this kind of work internationally. There’s the OSCE, the EU, the UN occasionally. There’s NDI, IRI, and the Carter Center. They do election observation missions or provide technical assistance usually to election management bodies or domestic observation groups. We are freelance consultants. We are either contacted or, if there’s a bid, we apply and get the job or not. There’s no job certainty. There are 10s if not 100s of people doing very similar jobs.
You felt that there is still political space to do work here in Slovakia. What did you mean by that?
Maros Gabriel: The NGO sector was quite strong after 1990, with many voices trying to influence the political discourse. Now it’s much less. NGOs simply don’t have the money they had at the end of 1990s. People don’t see the NGO sector as a career. Partly it’s money; partly it’s that people moved to other jobs. You don’t see a new generation of NGO activists. You don’t see young people taking part in politics. You might expect new political parties as the young generation starts to take their stand.
We, as NGO activists, can talk about the influence of NGOs, the changes in electoral laws in Slovakia, the political parties. Naturally, we could join political life as well. It’s a pity that as a NGO we are not really active. Today, there’s discussion about new electoral laws in Slovakia, and we’re not really part of the discourse, unfortunately.
You saw what happened in Hungary, which was a surprise for a lot of people — this move toward more authoritarian politics. Do you think anything like that could happen again in Slovakia?
Alexander Matus: We don’t have any party that survived from 1989 in its original form like Fidesz. People talk about the Christian Democratic Movement, which has survived since 1990, but they’ve already split several times in their history. And they are not strong enough now to follow the path of Fidesz. I don’t think we will repeat the scenario of Hungary, and I hope that we don’t do that. But now we have, for the first time, one party with a majority in parliament. In 1994, Meciar’s party was very close to it, but they needed a coalition partner. So, this is the first time since 1989 that we have had one-color government, and it’s not by just a one or two vote majority. It’s a comfortable majority: 83 out of 150. So, you could say that there’s a possibility that things could go wrong. But frankly speaking, I don’t think we’ll go that way.
And the current government has shown no indication that it will use its majority in an irresponsible way?
Alexander Matus: What we have witnessed in Hungary, which has touched on basic liberties like freedom of press and association, hasn’t happened here. You might see things you don’t like here, but it’s nothing compared with what Fidesz has done in Hungary over the last three or four years.
Maros Gabriel: People might say it’s because of a different electoral system. But I think it’s very much the past: the Trianon trauma, Hungary no longer having its former territory. For Slovaks, this nationalism dissolved with the creation of the independent Slovak state. Since then, I don’t think there’s a force that could unite Slovaks behind one movement. The current party in power, which I don’t think is a very ideological party, if they took a strong stand on a certain issue that a majority of people in society opposed, they would be voted out very quickly. I don’t think [Slovak Prime Minister Robert] Fico has a very strong agenda. It’s more an agenda of keeping a socialist face but not making any major changes.
Do you think Slovakia has become a more tolerant society over the last two decades?
Alexander Matus: Tolerant in what respect?
Tolerant toward ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, religious minorities. Tolerant in gender relations. Of course, Slovakia could become more tolerant in one direction and more intolerant in another.
Alexander Matus: Yes, that’s the point. If you go through the recent history of the last 20 years, you can see some cases of intolerance. But not to the extent that we could say that we are an intolerant society. There have been here and there some racist events. But we’ve hardly had any violence, apart from criminal violence.
Maros Gabriel: There’ve been cases of intolerance toward the Roma community in the East.
Alexander Matus: Yes, toward the Roma community and groups of the difficult to employ —
Alexander Matus: We have a different word in Slovak – neprispôsobiví – the people who have difficulty adjusting themselves to society. What you call marginalized or disadvantaged. If there is any intolerance, it is related to the Roma population. That’s the number one area.
It’s also true that we’re not a destination country for immigration. The number of foreigners here is very low. And the ones who are here are waiting to move westward. We didn’t face an influx of many immigrants from Africa or Asia or even from the neighboring former Soviet countries. In the end, it’s really the Roma issue that sticks out. It’s much more visible in the eastern part. Western Slovakia has a much smaller population of Roma. The villages where they live in hardship conditions are mostly found in eastern Slovakia.
So, it’s difficult for me to say whether we have become more tolerant. It’s very difficult to assess the level of tolerance before 1989. There was no information. People were scared to talk. We were all united with our “friendly countries.” Officially, we were very tolerant toward everyone. But you can guess that there were people who were not tolerant and couldn’t voice their concerns at that time. If I have to make an assessment, I would say that we are generally a tolerant country, perhaps thanks to the circumstances that we are not facing too many challenges to our tolerance.
Maros Gabriel: It depends on whom you compare us with. Compared with Western democracies like Denmark, we are not as tolerant. When you are talking about sexual minorities, it’s not a taboo topic like in Communist times. After 20 years of talking more or less openly, people are much more tolerant to sexual minorities than they were in the 1980s or the early 1990s. The same can be said about national minorities — Hungarians, Germans, Jews. There is not the kind of animosity as in the early 1990s.
But I’m not sure how much we changed toward the Roma. I don’t think it’s as positively viewed as in the 1990s. Other forms of racism are very strong. I wouldn’t want to bring here a Black wife or a Chinese woman. I wouldn’t feel safe to have Black kids in some parts of Bratislava at night. I don’t know how much this has changed. Perhaps the police are working harder. In terms of tolerance education, perhaps it has improved a bit. But I’d still be concerned.
I remember when I was doing a project with Open Society and I was in the United States on an exchange project. There was a room of Central Europeans and a few Americans. Two of the Americans were Black Americans and only one white. After one week of talking together with those guys, the Americans told us that somehow we completely ignored those Black people. Nobody talked to them. We are all educated people, and we didn’t have anything against them. But somehow, we didn’t treat them the same way we did the whites. We are so used to living in the white world.
That’s why I say this about Roma. We don’t have any Roma friends. We play sports and have some contact with people from the Roma community. But no close friends, no one to meet, to go with on holidays. And every tenth person in Slovakia is Roma.
Alexander Matus: We don’t really know the precise figures.
Maros Gabriel: It doesn’t matter — 8 or 10 percent. This community lives as a separate community more or less. I’m very worried in this respect.
Is there anything that you’ve changed your mind about in the last 20 years?
Alexander Matus: Naturally you would change your mind. It’s been 20 years! At that time we were fresh university graduates. Now, to put it mildly, we are in middle age. We are 44. People change from the age of 25 to 45. It’s a natural development. You are reassessing certain values and approaches to life.
For me, I became more critical. I can’t say that I was expecting a quick change to a perfect society. But there was enthusiasm and high expectations. After a while, you see that things are going to change in a positive direction but very slowly, with a lot of hiccups on the way. And there’s not really any one political force that you trust completely, any one horse to bet on. It’s all about compromises. You end up voting for the lesser evil. And some people say that they don’t vote because all the parties are stealing public money or thinking only about themselves. I don’t really want to become part of this group and step away from public life. But in Slovakia, you start by asking first, “Whom do I not want to vote for?” And then you’re left with only a handful of parties. But I always made my choice when I was here in this country.
So, I became more critical and more aware that things are complicated and you can’t really expect something completely white. We are now in a world of greys — dark grey and light grey.
Maros Gabriel: The major thing is that when you are living in a Communist system, you are not free. There were all these pressures — from the Soviet Union and so on. Then you live in a free society and you feel that you can’t blame anyone else. When I am not satisfied – because I’m not active enough or professional enough or too lazy – I can criticize others, but I have responsibility too. I’m part of it. I can be blamed as well. That’s a major difference in how I see the world.
I have three last quantitative questions. When you look back to 1990 and everything that has changed or not changed in this country since that time, how would you evaluate that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being least satisfied and 10 being most satisfied?
Maros Gabriel: I would say 7.
Alexander Matus: 6.5.
Same period, same scale: your own personal life?
Maros Gabriel: Less than that. 5.5.
Alexander Matus: It’s a more complex question. There are a lot of things in your personal life that have no connection to the political climate. I’ll say 6.
When you look into the near future and where Slovakia will be in two or three years, how would you evaluate those prospects on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being most pessimistic and 10 most optimistic?
Maros Gabriel: I don’t see any tendency to get better but not much tendency to get much worse. I would still say 6.5.
Alexander Matus: In two or three years? I would say 5.
Maros Gabriel: He’s more critical than I am!
Bratislava, February 12, 2013