FOUR incumbents have secured their positions in the Košice, Nitra, Trnava and Žilina regions in the first round of elections held on November 14 in Slovakia’s eight regions. In the remaining four regions, Bratislava, Trenčín, Banská Bystrica and Prešov the two top candidates will clash in second round elections to be held on November 28.
Election turnout was low, only slightly over 22.09 percent, according to official results published by the Slovak Statistics Office. The Bratislava Region posted the lowest turnout while the highest voter turnouts were posted in the Banská Bystrica, Prešov and Košice regions where suspicions of vote-buying have emerged.
Zdenko Trebuľa, who was supported by a wide coalition comprising Smer, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and Most-Híd party, won the race in the Košice region. Milan Belica, backed by the so-called Slovak coalition which crossed opposition and ruling coalition lines and made up of Smer, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) won in the Nitra race. The Trnava post went to Tibor Mikuš with the backing of the Slovak National Party (SNS). Juraj Blanár was the victor in Žilina with support by Smer, SNS and HZDS.
There were 56 candidates bidding for the position of president – sometimes known as governor – of the eight Self-Governing Regions (VÚCs).
In the second round in the Bratislava Region, the joint candidate of the right-of-centre parties, Pavol Frešo, will clash with the incumbent Vladimír Bajan, an independent candidate supported by the ruling parties of Smer and HZDS. However, Bajan, according to the Sme daily, can also count on support from Branislav Záhradník, a former SDKÚ party member, who was running as an independent candidate and finished third in the first round balloting, based on the official results.
In Banská Bystrica Region, which suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in Slovakia, Smer and HZDS nominee Vladimír Maňka, who is also one of Smer’s deputies in the European Parliament, will face Jozef Mikuš who is backed by a coalition of the centre-right parties.
In Trenčín Region, incumbent governor Pavol Sedláček supported by HZDS and Smer will face Martin Fedor, supported by a coalition of centre-right parties including SDKÚ and KDH.
The Prešov Region, the biggest of the eight regions in area and population, will see a second round race between incumbent Peter Chudík, Smer’s candidate, and Ján Hudacký, the joint candidate of KDH, SDKÚ and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS).
The VÚCs, with a collective budget of more than €1.1 billion in 2010, have decision-making powers in education and social services as well as in public transport and in maintaining 2nd and 3rd-category roads, but they also coordinate inter-regional and cross-border cooperation and tourism. The VÚCs are funded by taxes paid directly to the regions, including personal income and motor vehicle taxes. They also receive grants from central government ministries and from European structural funds.