FOUR centre-right parties are saying they are determined to give Slovakia its first government with no former communists. Their confidence is fuelled by the outcome of the parliamentary election on June 12 which left Smer, the party of Prime Minister Robert Fico, with only one other party that appears willing to join with Fico for another four-year electoral term – Ján Slota’s Slovak National Party (SNS). However, Fico, whose party captured 34.78 percent of the vote and 62 seats in the 150-seat parliament, has not yet abandoned the thought of retaining power.
Even though the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), the Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), and the Most-Híd party have all declared that none of them will walk down the aisle and wed Smer in a coalition government, Fico has been given a chance to knock on their doors until June 23. Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič charged Fico with the task of trying to form the next government and gave Smer 10 days to undertake what may be an impossible task.
On June 17 the election leader for SDKÚ, Iveta Radičová, requested a meeting with President Gašparovič to inform him that the centre-right parties, with their 79 seats in parliament, have signed a declaration on post-electioncooperation and want to form Slovakia’s next government.
Fico is no longer able to rely on his coalition partner in the last government, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which after attracting only 4.3 percent of the votes, now finds itself out of parliament. And with the support of just 5.07 percent of the electorate, SNS is able to contribute only nine seats in the new parliament to another coalition with Smer, a marriage that would produce just 71 seats, well below a majority.
Slovak media reported that Smer purportedly offered the prime ministerial post and five ministries to any potential coalition partner but that no party officially confirmed receiving such an offer. Meanwhile, negotiations between the centre-right parties are in full swing, involving all the processes that forming a new government entail: negotiations about the distribution of ministerial seats and other aspects of power sharing among the four parties within the future government.
The four parties have agreed that the SDKÚ's Radičová would become the prime minister and the distribution of government ministries is being discussed based on the parties’ election performance. According to the Sme daily, SDKÚ, with its 15.4 percent and 26 seats in the new parliament, would get five ministries while SaS, after collecting 12.14 percent of the vote and 22 seats, would control four ministries, followed by KDH with 8.52 percent and 15 seats and Most-Híd with 8.12 percent and 14 seats, which would both control three ministries.
Unofficial information reported by Sme indicates that two of the four parties have already agreed on the specifics of their future portfolios and are pleased with the outcome. Sme wrote on June 17 that the likely distribution of ministries is as follows: SDKÚ would get the prime minister’s seat as well as foreign affairs and transportation, with perhaps justice and defence as its two remaining ministries; SaS would control the ministries of culture, economy, finance and social affairs; KDH would manage the ministries of health and perhaps education and interior; Most-Híd would be in charge of the ministries of environment and agriculture as well as the post of deputy prime minister for human rights.
Meanwhile, Christian Democrat leader Ján Figeľ announced that he believes the programme statement of the next government should include the obligation that Slovakia amend its Fundamental Treaty with the Holy See to redefine conscientious objection rights and the relationship between church and state. KDH’s demands regarding the Vatican treaty and SDKÚ’s reluctance to meet those demands in 2006 resulted in the departure of KDH from the ruling coalition just a few months before that year’s parliamentary election. Radičová responded quickly that SDKÚ does not mind the treaty as such.
“For SDKÚ, it has never been a problem,” Radičová said, as quoted by Sme. “It has never been a value conflict.”
The KDH proposal has kindled some hopes within SNS and Smer, with Slota of SNS announcing that his party would be willing to support a coalition between Smer and KDH.
“I am convinced that everything is still open,” Slota said, adding that the priority for his party is to not have any ethnic Hungarian party represented in parliament.
Slota also said that SNS would support the adoption of amendments to the Vatican treaty in parliament. The SNS boss suggested that future ideological conflicts between KDH and SaS might break the neck of the four-party ruling coalition.
“We are ready to find agreement and ready for reasonable compromises with particular political parties,” Radičová said, adding that none of the parties want to rush into hasty decisions.
Will a four-party coalition be stable?
Political scientist Grigorij Mesežnikov is most sceptical about negotiations taking place between any of the centre-right parties and Smer. He stated that Fico’s trial balloons are “nonsense” and that the Smer boss is only trying to buy time to “do some cleaning up at the ministries”.
“[Smer] speaking about coalition talks is creating a fictive reality,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator, adding that he thinks that the president’s 10-day offer to allow Fico to attempt to form a government is the result of a secret agreement between the two politicians.
Mesežnikov also said that a four-member coalition between the centre-right parties is quite a logical one.
“These parties belong together based on the frame of their programmes,” Mesežnikov said. “There is much accord in the area of politics and social and economic issues. The political style is tuned for negotiations. I very hopefully see the perspective for joint operation in the government.”
The history of Slovak government coalitions shows that even quite diverse coalitions can stick together, according to Tim Haughton, a political analyst from the University of Birmingham in England.
“They can implement quite tough packages, but yet stick together even if they might say quite nasty things about each other in public,” Haughton told The Slovak Spectator in an interview. “But they can stick together.”
Haughton also pointed to the ideological similarities of the four parties, while noting that there could be possible divisions over certain social issues between SaS and KDH. According to Haughton, the fact that two of the parties entering the coalition, SaS and Most-Híd, are new parties will also play a role.
“The [internal] cohesion of these two parties is going to be quite important for the cohesion of the whole government,” Haughton said. According to Haughton, SDKÚ will also need to manage some interesting internal dynamics.
“[Mikuláš] Dzurinda was the leading figure in its creation – and he now has to take a back seat (or at least a much less prominent seat) to the lady who might become prime minister,” said Haughton. “So there are some difficult times ahead, all the members of the coalition will have to work hard to keep their party members happy and keep the coalition together. They could do it, but it will be hard.”
Michaela Stanková contributed to this report
21. Jun 2010 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová