The first round of Slovakia's presidential election took place on March 21, 2009. The president is elected by a direct vote of citizens, even though the powers of the office are rather limited compared to those of the prime minister.
Seven candidates ran for the post of head of state in Slovakia’s third direct election. The incumbent president, Ivan Gašparovič, was backed by two of the three ruling parties – Smer and the Slovak National Party (SNS) – and finished the first round with 46.7 percent of the votes. His main challenger, Iveta Radičová, who also advanced to the second round as the joint candidate of the parliamentary opposition parties, received the support of 38.5 percent of voters.
The remaining candidates – who were supported mainly by non-parliamentary parties and who included František Mikloško, Dagmara Bollová, Zuzana Martináková and Milan Sidor, as well as Milan Melník, the candidate of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), a member of the ruling coalition – were more or less reduced to the role of supporting actors in the background of the main drama between Smer and SNS of the governing coalition and the parliamentary opposition parties.
The run-off election took place on April 4, 2009. With over 55 percent of the votes from a voter turnout of slightly more than 51.6 percent, Gašparovič retained the presidency for another five-year term.
The election campaign, especially before the run-off, was marked by growing tensions between the Slovak majority population and ethnic Hungarian citizens. The so-called Hungarian card was played again during the campaign with Radičová being backed by the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), while the SNS, known for its strong opinions regarding minority issues, supporting Gašparovič.
European Parliament elections
In the June 15 elections to the European Parliament (EP), Slovakia remained faithful to its image as the country with the lowest voter turnout in the EU.
The slight increase in the number of voters who came to cast their ballots for their future MEPs – from less than 17 percent in 2004 to 19.64 percent in 2009 – was not enough to shift Slovakia from its position as the country with the EU’s most reluctant voters, even when compared to other generally apathetic central European countries.
Prime Minister Robert Fico’s Smer party took five seats in the EP and the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and the Christian Democratic Movement each won two seats. The Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) also captured one seat each.
Overall, Smer had the support of 32.1 percent of the Slovak voters in the EP balloting. Of the three parliamentary opposition parties, the SDKÚ collected 16.98 percent of the vote while the SMK received 11.33 percent and the KDH 10.87 percent.
The junior parties in the governing coalition, the HZDS and SNS, received 8.97 percent and 5.55 percent of the vote, respectively.
The strongest ruling coalition party at the national level, Smer, painted its colours all across Slovakia by picking up 137 mandates in this year’s balloting for members of Slovakia’s eight regional parliaments. Observers agreed that Smer had emerged even stronger after the first round of regional voting on November 14, having successfully employed campaign tactics which used all the advantages at its disposal as a state-level governing party.
Four Smer-endorsed incumbent regional presidents – in the regions of Košice, Nitra, Trnava and Žilina – received absolute majorities and were elected in the first round, while the two top performing candidates from each of the four other regions clashed in a second round vote on November 28.
The results of the second round run-off between the top two vote-getters in the four regions brought no surprises. Two of the incumbent Smer-backed presidents were re-elected.
The candidate of Smer and HZDS won with over 59 percent of the votes in the Trenčín Region over the candidate of the centre-right opposition parties. In Prešov Region, where the first round of the regional elections was marked by opposition accusations of vote-buying in Roma settlements, the incumbent candidate endorsed by Smer and HZDS received over 54 percent of the vote.
The Banská Bystrica and Bratislava Regions elected new presidents. Bratislava was the only region to elect a president who was not endorsed by Smer. There, the candidate of the centre-right opposition parties got 60.5 percent of the vote.