THE UPCOMING election is stirring much discussion and analysis of public opinion polls which show Slovakia’s centre-right parties gaining support while voters preferences for the Smer party and its current coalition partners appear to be dropping. The Slovak Spectator spoke to Kevin Deegan-Krause, a political scientist from Wayne State University in the USA, about the recent poll results and his analysis of the current political setting. Professor Deegan-Krause carefully follows voter preferences and politics in Slovakia – topics about which he regularly blogs at www.pozorblog.com.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Various polls from different agencies suggest that the centre-right parties are gaining support while the ruling coalition parties might be losing ground. Do you see it that way too? Can we say that preferences for Robert Fico’s Smer party and its coalition partners are falling while the right-wing parties are rising?
Kevin Deegan-Krause (KDK): I think the polls do show rather consistently that the current government parties are losing ground. My most recent analysis of polls through April (available in greater detail on my blog) shows the coalition decline to be between 4 and 8 percent in all of the polls conducted over the last four months. I think what is probably going on here is a two-part shift (not including other shifts by those who have decided not to vote): 1) a shift by some voters of the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) to Smer and 2) a smaller shift of some Smer voters (cultural liberals and those who seek novelty and “cleanliness”) to the Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS). I cannot be sure because the data are not finely-grained enough, but that is my guess.
TSS: There are several ‘small’ parties which are polling around 5 percent such as the HZDS, Most-Híd, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and the SNS. Could the recent polls motivate potential voters for these smaller parties to vote for them and increase their election performance?
KDK: I rather doubt that the polls will encourage the partisans of the small parties to vote. To the contrary, people are fairly rational and have some hesitancy to vote for too-small parties. If there were a clear loser in the choice between SMK and Most-Híd, we might see a further tipping toward the larger alternative, but at present both of them seem to be able to claim viability, even victory and unless something happens to change this in the next month, there may not be a mass pre-election exodus from the less-viable to the more-viable, though what happens on election day is anybody’s guess and Most-Híd probably needs to go into the election with more than 5 percent if it is to overcome the tendency of voters once in the voting booth to go with the established alternative and the current share should stay about the same.
On the Slovak nationalist side, the same phenomenon can occur. Here there clearly is a “weaker” party, and if HZDS consistently drops below the threshold in the next two sets of polls, I would expect some (but not many) of its voters to shift to SNS or Smer, pushing HZDS down
With SNS it is more complicated because the party has more programmatic themes that would help it keep voters even if it dropped below the threshold but it also has considerably weaker organisation to mobilise voters on election day.
TSS: MVK’s February poll was surprising with its high number for the first time for SaS; now the numbers seem to be steadier. Is it realistic to expect support for SaS to be so high (since they are still seen as newcomers to the political scene)? What do these preferences for SaS tell you?
KDK: Polling numbers for SaS have been quite high. They are probably rather soft – and most new parties see a drop between the final polls and election day (and some from the early polls to the later ones as well). With that said, SaS has run a good campaign, has stayed 'on message' and now that it is across the threshold it is also getting more media attention. The party probably will not do as well in the election as it is doing in the polls, but it has a good chance to do quite well, rivalling or even slightly exceeding past scores of other new parties that we have seen on the Slovak political scene over the past 20 years.
TSS: Focus agency recently reported that the voter turnout in the June elections could fall to around 44 percent, the lowest since 1990. In comparison, the turnout was around 70 percent in 2002. Why could the turnout drop so much? Do you see it as a common feature in post-communist countries?
KDK: It is interesting to me that Focus suggests a further drop in turnout. While I would trust the analysis of Martin Slosiarik of Focus over my own, my suspicion – based on very little data – is that there will not be a major drop in turnout. While there has been a general trend of declining turnout in nearly all types of elections – parliamentary, local, presidential, regional – since the first election of each type, every election since the parliamentary election of 2006 has shown only a very small drop in turnout (local elections in 2007 and the first round of the presidential election), or a slight to moderate increase in turnout (second round of the presidential election, European Parliament elections, 1st and 2nd rounds of the regional parliament elections).
The poll results for those who “will not vote” or “do not know” are running on a par with those of 2006. These lead me to think that turnout will be rather similar to four years ago, but in this I defer to Focus, which has more experience on this question than I do and made a much better prediction four years ago than I did.
17. May 2010 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani