Traditionally, a presidential veto is seen as a sign that the president is overriding the wishes of the country’s lawmakers.
But in outgoing Slovak President Andrej Kiska’s case, to veto a law that a majority of lawmakers voted for last week would be to do them a favor.
Slovakia’s far-right Slovak National Party or SNS put forth an amendment to protect Slovak state symbols — but also included an article on national anthems that many lawmakers seem to have missed.
The law, should it come into effect next month, would criminalize playing any national anthem but the Slovak one at public events on certain occasions — for example, public holidays — unless a member of a foreign delegation is at the event. The law also carries a fine of 7,000 euros ($7,890).
The law was seen as an outrage in neighboring Hungary (“OUTRAGEOUS! SLOVAKIA BANS SINGING THE HUNGARIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM!” read the headline in Daily News Hungary, an English-language outlet). Hungarians make up about 9 percent of the population of Slovakia and are the country’s largest ethnic minority. The Hungarian minority of about half a million people could be fined thousands of euros for singing the Hungarian anthem at a match of FC DAC 1904, a soccer team based in what is now southern Slovakia with a large ethnic Hungarian population.
FC DAC 1904 itself weighed in on Twitter.
There is a Slovakian-Hungarian party — Most-Hid — in parliament, but, in a twist, they voted for the law. Party leader Bela Bugar said they supported it by “mistake,” and Most-Hid complained on Facebook: “If a law could be misunderstood by parliamentarians, lawyers with big names, then it is likely that ordinary people may be misunderstood.”
And so, according to a Euronews report, the lawmakers are asking their outgoing president to not sign the law.
Kiska, one imagines with the resigned disappointment of a middle-school teacher who’s just realized his students watched the movie instead of finishing the book, said he “would like to ask members of the government coalition to read what they vote for.” He added, “It would be much better if they were already paying more attention to the preparation of the bill.”