Polls leave HZDS out in the cold

WITH THE parliamentary election only days away, percentage points and even tenths of percentage points, are becoming subjects for animated discussions among Slovaks. Even though the ruling Smer party comes out in top position in all the polls, the parties occupying the lower rungs of the political ladder have dramatically shifted positions from where they were a year ago. Given the current, swirling political environment, Slovakia’s election day on June 12 may be much more exciting than one might have expected just a few months ago.

WITH THE parliamentary election only days away, percentage points and even tenths of percentage points, are becoming subjects for animated discussions among Slovaks. Even though the ruling Smer party comes out in top position in all the polls, the parties occupying the lower rungs of the political ladder have dramatically shifted positions from where they were a year ago. Given the current, swirling political environment, Slovakia’s election day on June 12 may be much more exciting than one might have expected just a few months ago.

As The Slovak Spectator went to print, the results of the most recent poll, conducted by the Polis agency, were released. This poll saw Smer standing on 34.3-percent support, followed by a trio of centre-right parties – the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) with 16 percent, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) with 11.9 percent, and the Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS) with 9.9 percent, based on the preferences of those who said they would vote in the elections. The next three parties – Most-Híd, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), and the Slovak National Party (SNS) would just make it into parliament, each with polling results of around 5 percent. The poll found that the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) would be left standing in the cold outside parliament’s doors with only 4-percent support.

Just one day earlier the Agency for Research of Public Opinion (AVVM) published its own poll, reporting similar results for Smer, SDKÚ, KDH, SaS, Most-Híd and SNS. But according to the AVVM poll, SMK would join HZDS in the club of also-rans after the 2010 election.

That result, however, was not affirmed in a poll conducted by the Focus agency released on May 20 in which Smer polled just over 35 percent and all eight of the aforementioned parties made it over the 5-percent threshold.

Ján Baránek, an analyst with the Polis polling agency, said that the polls show as many as four parties swimming in very dangerous waters: SNS, HZDS, SMK and Most-Híd.

“As far as I can remember, it’s a situation we haven’t had before, prior to a parliamentary election, and that complicates any reflections and deductions about the [composition of] the future parliament, not even mentioning the future government,” Baránek told The Slovak Spectator.


Martin Slosiarik, an analyst with the Focus agency, pointed out that the results of polls published in late May do not yet reflect voters’ perceptions and decision-making flowing from the controversy over Hungary’s dual citizenship legislation and the increased tensions that have entered the Slovak election campaign and are becoming a leading topic.

“This could considerably move voter’s preferences, but we do not yet have polls that show which parties could gain from it and which could lose,” he said.



Eyes on HZDS



Analysts agree that Smer is sure to capture the most votes in the election but what is less certain is its ability to team up with other parties who cross the threshold to form a ruling coalition in the next parliamentary term. Baránek says that Smer might be quite concerned about such a scenario, noting that this is probably why it has started even tougher, more negative campaigning.

“But the biggest threat lies in HZDS not making it into parliament,” Baránek said, adding that Smer, even with its high percentage, might have serious problems forming a government without HZDS taking at least some seats in parliament.

Will HZDS be able to climb over the threshold? That, according to Slosiarik, is one of the major questions to be decided in the election, one which the polls cannot answer.

“HZDS’ electorate has been tunnelled by Smer; it succeeded in attracting some portion of their voters,” Slosiarik told The Slovak Spectator, adding that HZDS does not have the potential to attract new voters and can only depend on support from its most faithful supporters. Slosiarik hypothesises that a low voter turnout, which could reach a historic low of about 50 percent, would aid HZDS.

On the other hand Slosiarik notes that SNS could benefit from the controversy over Hungary’s dual citizenship law, a factor not yet reflected in the recent polls.

“Preferences for SNS are moving not far from the dangerous 5 percent mark and this is what can now mobilise their potential voters,” said Slosiarik, adding that even a double-digit result for SNS would not surprise him.



Right hopes for a Czech scenario



The most recent polls confirm a strengthening position for Slovakia’s centre-right parties. Their hopes were also raised after the Czech parliamentary election lifted that country’s centre-right parties, including two newcomers to the political scene, who together received enough votes to outpace the ruling social democratic party. Despite the Czech Social-Democratic Party (ČSSD) capturing over 22 percent of the votes, it seemed clear that the next government would be formed by three centre-right parties. This result represented a significant drop in support for ČSSD, since it had received 32 percent of the vote in the last election, in 2006, Czech Radio reported. ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek announced that he will stand down as the party’s leader.

According to Slosiarik, there is the potential for the right wing of Slovakia’s political spectrum to repeat the Czech scenario on June 12 and he believes it is mainly due to the success of Slovakia’s centre-right parties and particularly SaS, a new party on the Slovak scene, to attract a large number of new voters.

“That possibility wasn’t there at the end of last year, but now it seems that the centre-right parties have managed to address new voters,” Slosiarik said, adding that a problematic question in this scenario is whether SaS will be able to actually mobilise its potential voters.

Baránek agrees that the phenomenon of what he called “the internet voter” might play a role in the election, meaning mainly young voters from bigger cities and from the middle class.

“We don’t have any experience with the internet voters, whether they actually really stand up and go to vote,” he said.

The success of the Czech centre-right parties, according to Slosiarik, was based on Czech voters actually voting for the parties they had expressed support for in the polls.


“In Slovakia, mainly in the case of Most-Híd, there is the possibility that voters will be weighing the chances of the party [to make it into parliament] before actually voting for it, considering whether their vote would be wasted,” Slosiarik said.

The analysts generally agree that the possibility of Slovakia’s centre-right parties repeating the success of their Czech counterparts mainly depends on whether all five of these parties – SDKÚ, KDH, SMK, Most-Híd and SaS – make it into parliament and what the final position of HZDS turns out to be.



The Hungarian question



Conflicts that erupted in SMK in 2009, and the subsequent founding of Most-Híd party by a group of renegades from SMK, have also spiced up the political scene in Slovakia. Two weeks before the elections, both ‘Hungarian parties’ are struggling to attract enough support to cross the 5 percent threshold and analysts are reluctant to definitively evaluate their chances. Both Baránek and Slosiarik said they believe that at least one of these parties will be in parliament after the election.

“Higher turnout helps Most-Híd, while lower turnout helps SMK,” Baránek said, explaining the possibilities.

SMK, as the traditional ‘Hungarian party’ with what is thought to be a stronger core electorate, could benefit from the dual citizenship controversy, as Slosiarik says it represents tradition for ethnic Hungarians.

“In the case of Most-Híd, it’s all up to the Slovak part of that party’s electorate, whether they transfer their declarations of support in the polls into an actual election turnout,” Slosiarik said.


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