A RECORDING published anonymously on the internet and pertaining to earlier claims by Igor Matovič, the leader of the opposition Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), that Radoslav Procházka attempted to purchase advertising for his presidential campaign from Matovič’s family-owned company off the books, has taken its toll on the popularity of Procházka’s newly established Sieť party, according to a new poll.

The ratings for Sieť dropped from 15.8 percent in June to 10.6 percent in July, according to the Focus polling agency, with political analysts linking the recording and the drop. Procházka nevertheless attributed the drop of the still best-performing opposition party to the fact that the pollster for the first time removed his name from the party roster when doing the survey.

In a 1,128-respondent Polis poll, conducted between July 18 and 22, shortly before the recording featuring an alleged conversation between Matovič and Procházka was published, Sieť scored 16.4 percent, slightly less than 1 percentage point short of its June results when the party scored 17.2 percent.

Procházka maintains that his party remains the most relevant opposition grouping.

“Despite the drop in preferences, I consider Sieť the strongest body of the opposition and currently the only two-digit competitor of the ruling Smer, which six weeks since its establishment is quite extraordinary,” Procházka said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

The ruling Smer party, with 36.8 percent, is up from June’s 32.2 percent in Focus’ 1,051-respondent poll conducted between July 22 and July 29. It remains by far the most popular political party in Slovakia, despite media speculation that Prime Minister Robert Fico’s party is in a state of decline.

The numbers

Smer and Sieť were followed by the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) with 9.7 percent, OĽaNO with 7.8 percent, Most-Híd with 7.1 percent and the Party of the Hungarian Community (SMK) with 5.2 percent, according to the Focus poll. However, in the Polis poll, Most-Híd collected 8.3 percent and the KDH picked up 7.7 percent. The ethnic SMK also collected enough votes, 6 percent, to theoretically make it into parliament, followed by OĽaNO with 5.5 percent, as shown by the Polis poll.

The once strong Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the former party of prime minister Iveta Radičová, would not have made it into parliament if the elections were held in early to mid July, as indicated by both Focus and Polis polls. Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), the Slovak National Party (SNS) and Daniel Lipšic’s NOVA party would remain outside parliament as well.

Sieť

When responding to the Focus poll results, Procházka argued that Sieť was for the first time measured without being indicated along with his name by the pollsters, adding that the party still needs “to base the brand on concrete programmes and results in the eyes of the public”.

Nevertheless, political analysts Miroslav Kusý and Grigorij Mesežnikov said that the drop is partially the result of a recording featuring the voice of Procházka making statements on the financing of his presidential campaign.

The rising popularity of Procházka, who entered politics via one of the country’s most conservative parties, the KDH, has been an interesting development on the otherwise long stagnant centre-right political scene. In recent weeks, much of the media has intensively focused on his presidential campaign spending, which appeared to be more lavish than Procházka officially reported.

Kusý suggests that Matovič through the recording has stopped Procházka’s progress, which according to the analyst was a goal of the OĽaNO leader. Yet, Kusý does not attribute the dip of Sieť exclusively to the recording.

“It is the effect of new parties, which after their establishment jump high, but subsequently, they drop,” Kusý said, as quoted by SITA.

According to Mesežnikov, Matovič’s party has stable support and thus neutralising the growth of Sieť is advantageous for the party. However, despite the complicated launch, Sieť still has a chance to become a relevant player in the polls, Mesežnikov said.

“It is, however, important that Procházka explains in a relevant manner the whole issue to his supporters,” Mesežnikov told SITA.

Matovič publicly claimed that Procházka attempted to purchase advertising for his failed presidential campaign from his company Regionpress off the books. A recording published anonymously on the internet on July 22 features Procházka’s voice saying “half-a-million euros” in response to Matovič’s question about how much he had spent on his presidential campaign. Procházka publicly declared his campaign spending at €250,000. The recording contains segments of a discussion between Procházka and Matovič, which Procházka has since insisted was heavily cut and edited by “DJ Matovič”.