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Left wing ascendant in coalition

As conservative members of the largest party in the ruling coalition continued to jump ship in February, political scientists spoke of a gradual 'spectrum shift' in the government - from a coalition that balanced conservative and socialist aspirations, to one more dominated by left-wing forces.
On February 1, SDK party deputy František Mikloško became the fourth politician to depart the SDK for his original party, the conservative Christian Democrats, one of five parties allied under the political umbrella of the SDK.
Mikloško's move came as another of his Christian Democrat collegaues, Ivan Šimko, was trying to sell SDK members on the idea of expanding the SDK's membership base and transforming it into a normal political party, a process which would ultimately lead to the extinction of member parties like the Christian Democrats.


Back to mother. František Mikloško has left the SDK for his old party.
photo: TASR

As conservative members of the largest party in the ruling coalition continued to jump ship in February, political scientists spoke of a gradual 'spectrum shift' in the government - from a coalition that balanced conservative and socialist aspirations, to one more dominated by left-wing forces.

On February 1, SDK party deputy František Mikloško became the fourth politician to depart the SDK for his original party, the conservative Christian Democrats, one of five parties allied under the political umbrella of the SDK.

Mikloško's move came as another of his Christian Democrat collegaues, Ivan Šimko, was trying to sell SDK members on the idea of expanding the SDK's membership base and transforming it into a normal political party, a process which would ultimately lead to the extinction of member parties like the Christian Democrats.

"The Christian Democrats have reached bottom, and party members are going against each other," said Mikloško.

Conservative departure strengthens left

As the only faction in either the SDK or the wider ruling coalition which practices traditional conservative politics, the Christian Democrats have upset the coalition's left-right balance just by leaving the SDK and withdrawing their support from Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, himself a former vice-chairman of the Christian Democrats.

Luboš Kubín, a political scientist with the Slovak Academy of Sciences, agreed that "the friction within the Christian Democrats naturally strengthens the left wing of the political spectrum in Slovakia."

The departure of the Christian Democrats from the largest party in the ruling coalition, Kubín said, clearly reduced the conservative influence within the SDK. On another level, however, the growing instability of the SDK meant that the balance of power in the governing coalition was tipping in favour of the former socialists. "The SDK, because of its fragmented character, is no longer the strongest party on the Slovak political scene," said Kubín. "The strongest is now the [reformed communist] Social Democratic Left [SDĽ], which is, unlike the SDK, homogenous."

Weak SDK means strong SDĽ

Any move to expand the SDK's membership base and turn it into a party in its own right, Kubín explained, would touch off a political battle among the five member parties for influence. "If this happens, the SDK parliamentary club would break up, and the SDK would simply become a competitor party to its five original parties," said Kubín.

With the dissolution of the SDK, Kubín explained, the five member parties would form two main clusters - one consisting of the conservative Christian Democrats, the liberal Democratic Union and the right-wing Democratic Party. The other, leftist club would comprise the social democratic SDSS and the Greens.

"Although this would not lead to early elections, it would shift the political power onto the left wing parties," said Kubín, explaining that the former SDK left wing parties would likely merge with other left-wing parties in the ruling coalition.

Socialists acceptable

Soňa Szomolányi, associate professor with Comenius University in Bratislava , said that Slovak voters would not necessarily oppose a more left-wing government. "It's clear that people would generally accept a left wing party as the leading element in society," she said. "But it would require that the [former communist] SDĽ get rid of such people like [SDĽ chairman and parliamentary speaker Jozef] Migaš, who are deeply imprinted on people's minds as communist officials."

Szomolányi added that whereas the SDĽ now has about 15% of voter support, its preferences could easily reach 20% if it merged with the other left-wing parties on the Slovak political scene. "There are many leftist parties here, and the possibility that the SDĽ will try to suck them in is very high," she said.

"Besides the SDĽ, there is the SDSS, which has already started talks with another left-wing oriented coalition party - the [ruling coalition member] Party of Civil Understanding [SOP]," explained Kubín. "That might very easily end up in a fusion of the two parties."

Szomolányi warned, finally, that the victory of the left wing In Slovakia could not be taken as a sure bet. She pointed out the possibility of co-operation between the Christian Democrats and the former government parties - Vladimír Mečiar's ideologically amorphous Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the far-right Slovak National Party. "Even though the possibility is low, it's still there," Szomolányi concluded.

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